Newswise — Scientists at the University of Kentucky have assembled the genome of the axolotl, a salamander whose only native habitat is a lake near Mexico City.

The implications of this announcement are threefold:

  1. The axolotl has been known to regrow their limbs, spinal cords, lenses -- even half their brains. A complete and detailed genomic map is the first step towards identifying the mechanisms by which these salamanders regenerate, with profound clinical applications down the road.
  1. The axolotl genome is 10X larger than the human genome, posing a significant computational burden. The researchers cleverly adapted a classical genetic approach called linkage mapping to assemble the billions of individual bits of data in their correct order quickly, creating a new "tool" for scientists to apply to other organisms with large genomes.
  1. By developing what is essentially a detailed biological instruction manual for the axolotl, the researchers have provided the scientific community a valuable biomedical model for the study of evolution and gene function.

The study, published in Genome Research, was co-authored by Jeramiah Smith, an associate professor in the Department of Biology, and Randal Voss, a professor in the Spinal Cord and Brain Injury Research Center at the University of Kentucky.

Downloadable interview footage of Smith and Voss can be found here:

Photos and b-roll available upon request.

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