Macrophages Drive Regeneration

The activity of one type of immune cell helps regrow the limbs of amputated salamanders.

By Edyta Zielinska | May 22, 2013

AxolotlWIKIMEDIA, STAN SHEBSMacrophages, a type of immune cell that travels throughout tissues gobbling up bacteria and dead cells, plays a pivotal role in limb regeneration in a salamander called the axolotl, according to new research published this week (May 20) in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"There has been a lot of discussion about how cells of the immune system might impinge on the regenerative process,” Andràs Simon of the Karolinska Institute in Sweden told ABC Science. "No one has experimentally addressed this before, so in that sense it's very important."

Macrophages are known to be important in human muscle repair after acute damage. To test their role in limb regeneration in the axolotl, researchers from the Australian Regenerative Medicine Institute depleted macrophages in amputated salamanders and noticed the formation of stumps and scarring, rather than new limbs. When the stump was reamputated and the macrophages replenished, the regenerative program resumed, regrowing the lost limb. The researchers noted that in the first 24 hours after amputation, the macrophages were involved in cytokine signaling that was alternately inflammatory and anti-inflammatory, suggesting a more complicated program of tissue repair than that observed in humans.

Nonetheless, the researchers hope the finding will inform research on human regeneration. "This really gives us somewhere to look for what might be secreted into the wound environment that allows for regeneration," said first author James Godwin.


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Avatar of: Mandy Gabriel

Mandy Gabriel

Posts: 1

May 23, 2013

HI :) thanks for very interesting article. My husband had a very serious car accident and had multiple injuries and was brought back to life many times... After a year or so his arm still wouldn't bend. X-rays showed that the reason his arm won't bend is he has grown a new bone out of his old one that is preventing the arm from bending! We wondered if this has ever been discovered before and if he had cells in his body that re grow his limbs. When he was a child he cut the tip of his finger off and the Drs wanted to amputate to the joint! He refused and his finger tip grew back! Also when he was in his late teens he had a car accident and was told he broke his back and wouldn't be able to walk again. He walked out of the hospital himself a few days later as he refused to believe them! Have you or anyone here ever heared of anything like this before? Thanks from Mandy :)
Avatar of: David P

David P

Posts: 1

May 23, 2013

I have not heard of this before and I am sorry that happened, but that is a fascinating story. Honestly if I were you I would contact the research group that put out this study and see what they think. Maybe he has some rare condition and could be very beneficial in finding the link between salamander/human cell re-growth.

Avatar of: Stuart Halliday

Stuart Halliday

Posts: 2

May 28, 2013

And there was me thinking macrophages were a type of primitive virus that destroy bacteria...

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