Sequencing the genome of salamanders

August 20, 2014 by Keith Hautala

University of Kentucky biologist Randal Voss is sequencing the genome of salamanders. Though we share many of the same genes, the salamander genome is massive compared to our own, about 10 times as large.

Voss's research focuses on axolotls, with amazing regenerative ability.

"It's hard to find a body part they can't regenerate: the limbs, the tail, the , the eye, and in some species, the lens, half of their brain has been shown to regenerate," Voss said. "I'm very fortunate to have a colleague in the department, Jeramiah Smith, who's an expert at the ability to put small pieces of DNA together to kind of recreate the puzzle, which is the genome. We have funding from the National Institute of Health and the Department of Defense to sequence the axolotl genome and provide this blueprint for the first time."

With a partner at the University of Dayton, Voss is looking at the loss of regenerative ability in the eye as a salamander ages.

"Early on in life, axolotls can regenerate their lens. But at some point in time, around 28 days after they hatch, that plasticity goes away and they can't regenerate the lens," Voss said. "So, I've been working with that group trying to identify the genes that might explain that."

Voss is also starting a new collaboration with an orthopedic surgeon at UK to study knee joint regeneration.

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.
Credit: Video by UK Research Media

"Over the course of say 10 to 15 days, the salamander will successfully regenerate a complete joint. That blows the 's mind because that would be the Holy Grail in their field to understand how to orchestrate joint regeneration in a human."

Explore further: Genetic factors shaping salamander tails determine regeneration pace

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Trade in invasive plants is blossoming

October 3, 2015

Every day, hundreds of different plant species—many of them listed as invasive—are traded online worldwide on auction platforms. This exacerbates the problem of uncontrollable biological invasions.

Ancestral background can be determined by fingerprints

September 28, 2015

A proof-of-concept study finds that it is possible to identify an individual's ancestral background based on his or her fingerprint characteristics – a discovery with significant applications for law enforcement and anthropological ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.