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Salamander Superpowers

A Question of Regeneration


Author(s)

Sarah G. Stonefoot
Department of Art & Art History
Beloit College
stonefos@beloit.edu

Abstract

This case, developed for a course in human biology, provides students with a context for discussing stem cells and cloning by exploring regeneration in salamanders and the ethical as well as scientific and health-related issues of applying what scientists know about that natural process to humans. Students read the case and then answer questions about cell differentiation and regeneration as they explore the pros and cons of providing natural regeneration in humans versus stem cell transplants for wound and organ repair.


Objectives

  • Learn about different types of stem cells, specifically, totipotent, pluripotent, and unipotent.
  • Learn about regeneration as it occurs in a salamander.
  • Understand what is meant by blastema, cell dedifferentiation, transdifferentiation, and pattern formation.
  • Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of providing “natural regeneration” in humans as opposed to stem cell transplants for wound and organ repair.

Keywords

Regeneration; blastema; cell differentiation; stem cell; totipotent; pluripotent; unipotent; bioethics; salamanders

Topical Areas

Ethics

Educational Level

High school, Undergraduate lower division

Format

PDF

Type / Methods

Directed

Language

English

Subject Headings

Biology (General)  |  


Date Posted

9/18/2003

Teaching Notes

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Answer Key

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Videos

The following video(s) are recommended for use in association with this case study.

  • The Axolotl: A Cut Above the Rest “Science
    The axolotl is a Mexican salamander with an incredible ability: Cut its leg off, and the limb will grow right back! How it does this and why humans can’t is still a bit of a mystery. Researchers like Susan Bryant of UC Irvine are studying these amphibians to understand the underlying mechanisms for their miraculous regenerative powers. Video created by: Science Friday. Produced by: Christian Baker. Running Time: 4:27 min. Date: August 23, 2016.

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