From the Australian press, an example of one of a number of research groups that are studing the axolotl with an eye to mapping the mechanisms that drive their exceptional regenerative prowess:
They are masters at regenerating their own limbs, tails, jaws, retina and heart. They can recover from spinal chord and brain injury and can easily tolerate organ transplants. And to top things off, they don't get cancer. Meet the axolotl, otherwise known as the Mexican walking fish. ''This animal guards so many interesting biological secrets. Things that would leave humans in a wheelchair or dead they can just repair in no time at all.''
In Mexican walking fish, limbs can be removed and re-grown without so much as a scar and, amazingly, the heart can regenerate after having a third of it removed. Similarly, it can have sections of its spinal chord ''cut and pasted'' without killing it. Try doing that to a lab rat - let alone any other mammal. Some of the key genes that regulate spinal chord regeneration in axolotls have been established and compared with that of the mouse and rat.
Chief among the questions surrounding the axolotl is whether a cure for cancer might lie beneath the translucent skin of the albino axolotl. Essentially, controlling cancer is about controlling cell growth. ''Cancer is like a wound that never heals and how the immune cells deal with this perpetuates cancer and allows rogue cells to proliferate and grow crazy. How axolotls can suppress cancer and activate regeneration is one of the things [we] would like to get to.''