The Mexican salamander might look like just another sea creature but scientists believe we can learn a lot from them
A cute little amphibian could be the answer to fertility problems in HUMANS according to scientists.
The Mexican salamander may look a world away from humans, but the way the sea animals regenerate their ovaries could transform the way infertility is tackled in humans.
Salamanders are unique to vertebrate animals in that they can regenerate large portions of their limbs, heart, spinal cord, brain and skin.
And now it’s been revealed that, as well as being able to regenerate internal organs and limbs, they were also able to repair their ovaries and continue to produce reproductive eggs.
A study published in the journal Stem Cells, revealed the findings of a university’s research team which looked at axolotl salamanders, also known as Mexican salamanders
The research, from Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts, was undertaken by Professor of Regenerative Biology, James Monaghan.
He explains: “When we remove a large portion of the ovary, it activates many endogenous cells to repair the organ.
“These salamanders can repair after injury, continue to make large amounts of eggs, and continue to have a hyper-prolific female reproductive system. It’s pretty incredible.”
The research team said the axolotls went on to produce nearly 2,000 reproductive eggs a year – paving the way for scientists to examine how their remarkable regenerative properties could be replicated in humans.
Prof Monaghan said: “We found most of the genes that are expressed in human development and in human ovarian stem cells are also expressed in these salamander ovarian stem cells.”
He added the university’s scientists planned to look at how they can translate their study to mice, and eventually look at how their research could be related to humans.
Around one in seven couples in the UK will have problems conceiving for a number of different reasons, according to the NHS.
Prof Monaghan said: “We start in mice and then move up. Identifying the signals is the key element.
“If we can identify a blueprint for regeneration that is shared across multiple regenerating organs and even across regenerating animals, I feel these lessons can be utilised for human good. It’s really an exciting time in regenerative biology.”
Previous research by the lab identified a growth factor secreted by nerves that played a part in regrowing limbs.
Dr Luciano Nardo, clinical director at Cheshire-based Reproductive Health Group, welcomed the study.
He said: “Clearly, an enormous amount of work needs to be done before we can see how this research could translate to humans.
“But it is encouraging to see new studies looking at possibilities for women suffering from ovarian failure.
“Millions of couples in the UK will experience problems with having children, and problems with fertility can be down to a number of factors.
“This research potentially demonstrates how ovaries have the potential to be brought back to life, as we have seen with previous studies.”
Last year scientists succeeded in reversing damage caused to eggs by cancer treatment in the ovaries of mice.
A total of 18 rodents were put through courses of chemotherapy and then injected with bone marrow stem cells by scientists from Egypt and the US.
Within a fortnight researchers saw a regeneration in ovarian tissue and an increase in follicles, which produce the hormones oestrogen and progesterone.
They went on to have large litters of pups after treatment, with the discovery hailed as “phenomenal” by fertility experts.