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U of Florida Wins GO Grant to Seek Salamander's Regeneration Tricks

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Scientists at the University of Florida will use a $2.4 million stimulus grant from the National Institutes of Health to lead research into a salamander known for its regenerative prowess in an effort to find genetic and proteomic links to mammals and eventually to humans.

The University of Florida McKnight Brain Institute's Regeneration Project said today that it will use the NIH Grand Opportunity grant to compare the regenerative capacity of the Mexican axolotl salamander with established mouse models of human disease and injury, UFL said today.

"By comparing how a mammal and a salamander respond to injuries, we can identify genes or proteins that we can now add back to the mammalian system to make it regenerate better," Edward Scott, principal investigator on the grant and director of the institute's Program in Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine, said in a statement.

"The axolotl is the champion of vertebrate regeneration, with the ability to replace whole limbs and even parts of its central nervous system," Scott said, adding that they use many of the same genes and body systems as humans, whose regenerative capacities after injuries are far more limited. "We think that studying them will tell us a lot about a patient's natural regenerative capacities after spinal cord injury and nerve cell damage."

Randal Voss, director of the Salamander Genome Project at the University of Kentucky said that the axolotl and humans share around 90 percent of their genes "in a one-to-one sense."

"It could be that small but important changes in the way these genes function in an injury environment affect the repair process, but somehow the salamander is able to use these genes for regeneration, while people are not," he said.

The Regeneration Project also is supported by the Thomas H. Maren Foundation and the Jon L. and Beverly A. Thompson Research Endowment, among others.

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