Who is the champion of regeneration research?
The regeneration potential of the Axolotl is being decoded
Regeneration in a biological medicine context means that endogenous, tissue-specific stem cells can be activated and newly formed so that damaged tissue can be restored. Different animals, e. g. the axolotl salamander, can renew their organs and even limbs after an injury to a fully functional degree and without any scar formation. Scientists around the world analyse these regeneration processes.
Among them, Prof. Elly Tanaka at the DFG Research Centre for Regenerative Therapies Dresden (CRTD) – an Excellence Cluster at the Technische Universität Dresden. Since 1999 she is devoted to the axolotl, in particular. Tanaka and her team were able to display, that fully grown tissue-specific cells could after the amputation of the tail or limbs, dedifferentiate into a younger stem-cell like cell phase, i.e. regress into precursor cells.
These precursor cells multiply and move to the wound and there, produce a blastemal, a type of cell plug out of undifferentiated tissue. Then, out of this, full-grown cells are developed, that in turn produce new tissue. But how does the organism know, what is missing and what size has to be reproduced? The answers to these questions can provide new therapy approaches for humans.
Flatworms are the true miracle healers
In the animal kingdom the ability to regenerate is a widely spread strategy. Not only the axolotl, but also flatworms, called planarians, possess a very high regeneration potential. When a flatworm loses its head or tail, both parts regrow. Even if the worms are cut up, a whole worm will develop out of each cut piece. Planarians are therefore ideal model organisms for the regeneration research and help to exactly decode the mechanisms of regeneration processes.