|Mexican axolotl salamanders are amphibians that spend their whole lives underwater. Credit: Jamie Catto|
The study was finally able to sequence the genome of the axolotl, revealing that it has a sequence of 32 billion base pairs - that's a bit more than 10x the amount of base pairs in the human genome. The scientists working on this project even had to develop a new gene assembler called MARVEL for the project! The findings from this genome indicated that some genes that are responsible for limb regeneration may be restricted by species, and that intron size may play a key role in the genes used during development. Further, the study found that the axolotl "does not contain the essential developmental gene Pax3" (Nowoshilo et. al. 2018), but they do have a paralogue, Pax7, which could lead to further understandings of the developmental genes of the axolotl. The ultimate goal for understanding the axolotl genome is to understand how their genes are able to make changes in RNA and proteins in order to transform adult cells to stem cells that facilitate regeneration.
I think that the potential in understanding the axolotl genome is incredible. The ability for the axolotl to regenerate it's limbs and spinal cord functions after damage is incredible on it's own, and the potential for understanding stem cell production could be a huge step for human medical research. I'm looking forward to seeing how further research into the axolotl genome pans out, and how we are able to relate their wealth of genetic information to the human genome and development.