A group of researchers associated with the University of Florida McKnight Brain Institute’s Regeneration Project has begun creating genomic tools necessary to compare the regenerative capacity of the Mexican axolotl salamander with established mouse models of human disease and injury.
The project is underway thanks to a $2.4 million grant from the National Institutes of Health Grand Opportunity.
The researchers hope to find ways to tap unused human capacities to treat spinal cord injury, stroke, traumatic brain injury and other neural conditions, according to Edward Scott, Ph.D., principal investigator for the grant and director of the McKnight Brain Institute’s Program in Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine.
“The axolotl is the champion of vertebrate regeneration, with the ability to replace whole limbs and even parts of its central nervous system,” Dr. Scott said. “These salamanders use many of the same body systems and genes that we do, but they have superior ability to regenerate after major injuries. 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.”
Grand Opportunity grants are funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and are intended to support research with high short-term impact and a high likelihood of enabling growth and investment in biomedical research and health care delivery.
The Regeneration Project is also supported by private foundations such as the Thomas H. Maren Foundation and the Jon L. and Beverly A. Thompson Research Endowment, the U.F. Office of the Vice President for Research and an anonymous donor, according to Dennis Steindler, Ph.D., executive director of U.F.’s McKnight Brain Institute and a co-investigator on the grant.