Researchers have identified a cell that aids limb regrowth in Salamanders. Macrophages are a type of repairing cell that devour dead cells and pathogens, and trigger other immune cells to respond to pathogens. In humans, they're also important to muscle repair, which led Dr. James Godwin, of the Australian Regenerative Medicine Institute (ARMI) at Monash University, to research whether the macrophages found inside Salamanders are related to the animal's ability to regenerate limbs.
The cells could release chemicals to trigger regeneration
Salamanders are unique in the vertebrate world as they're capable of repairing their hearts, tails, spinal cords, brain, and regrowing limbs. This makes them an obvious candidate for regenerative research. Godwin and the team at ARMI removed the macrophages the Salamanders and found that the animals were no longer able to regenerate limbs. He believes that the cells release chemicals that are vital to the Salamanders' regenerative powers. More research is needed to establish exactly how regeneration works, and Godwin is currently conducting experiments to investigate. "This really gives us somewhere to look for what might be secreted into the wound environment that allows for regeneration," he tells ABC News.
Although understanding the Salamander's abilities may one day lead to impossible-sounding feats like limb regeneration in humans, there are more-immediate benefits that could come from the research. Less ambitious goals such as scarless healing, could be attainable. "The long-term plan is that we'll know exactly what cocktail to add to a wound site to allow salamander-like regeneration under hospital conditions."