The axolotl is a critically endangered amphibian with the ability to regenerate limbs, organs, and even parts of its brain.

In an age where genetic modification is being used more frequently than ever, people are talking about the ethics, practicality, and unforeseen effects of changing the human genome.

Will the axolotl's genes have the desired effect of allowing any organ to be regenerated, when spliced into the human genome?

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    $\begingroup$ ... preferably without significantly increasing the risk of getting cancer. The better you can regenerate, the better can cancer cells multiply. $\endgroup$ – vsz Nov 28 '16 at 7:14

It's not that simple.

Gene is a recipe for protein, or a control mechanism. So, if we want to introduce a mechanism to deal with mosquito, we could figure out where proteins on the surface of our skin are coded, and then add recipe for mosquito repellent there. If we want higher muscle mass, we can "jam" control mechanism responsible for removal of unneeded muscle mass due to lack of exercise. We can, because it's thoroughly examined, as a reason of few illness.

Regeneration, however, is totally different thing. in Axolotl, regeneration is linked with delayed metamorphosis. After reaching maturity, regeneration is greatly diminished. Humans does not even have this mechanism, we are born in our mature form. Ability to regenerate is being studied now, but it is a lot of proteins and a lot of control mechanisms, plugged to places human genome does not even have.

That said, scientists still hope to do it one day, and develop regeneration therapy for humans. Axolotl research already played big part in this work, and will play it in foreseeable future. Just don't expect it to be simply "gene transplant".

  • $\begingroup$ Actually, neoteny is a trait of both humans and axolotls. $\endgroup$ – BlindKungFuMaster Nov 28 '16 at 9:13
  • $\begingroup$ Not the same neoteny. We don't have metamorphosis to be delayed. But surely younger kids heal faster. $\endgroup$ – Mołot Nov 28 '16 at 11:30

In principle we could modify our genetic code to allow for regeneration. But this is not a simple matter of adding, removing, or altering a gene.

Rather, it would take a complete rewrite of the codebase.

I think it more likely that nanobots that are not actually our own cells, and/or appendicies of genetic material inserted into our cells as a new chromosome to keep it separate from the original material, will be used instead. An outside planning source (which might be inside the body—I mean it’s not the normal cells) will direct a generation process and lay down scaffolding and trigger the normal developmental process of the organism to cause the limb to grow where it belongs.

  • $\begingroup$ We already can regrow liver (well) , fingertips (younger the better), ribs (a bit). Other mammals can regrow even more. Hopefully you're wrong and 'bots won't be needed. $\endgroup$ – Mołot Nov 28 '16 at 0:07

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