MDI Biological Laboratory
Assistant Professor

Prayag Murawala, Ph.D.

What makes axolotls regenerate and what blocks regeneration in us?

The Murawala Lab combines diverse disciplines (developmental biology, evolutionary biology, epigenetics, genomics and biophysics) and next-generation technologies such as gene manipulations, whole body imaging, and single cell -omics to understand the mechanisms of complex tissue regeneration.

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Limb regeneration

The limb is a complex structure that consists of numerous tissue types such as epidermis, bones, muscles, fibroblasts, nerves, vasculature and immune cells. Upon limb amputation all these cell types coordinate with each other and carry out an extraordinary feat of restoring exactly the lost portion. How do the cells even know where the amputation was made? How do they know when to stop regenerating? How do they form an exact replica with all the proper skeletal elements? These are just some of the questions that keep the Murawala Lab busy.

Tail regeneration

The axolotl is one of few organisms that can regenerate its primary body axis, including the spinal cord. During embryonic development, an array of myotomes and vertebrae is formed through a segmentation process called somitogenesis. Upon tail amputation axolotls also recreate new segments, each containing new muscles and vertebrae. However, these segments originate from a mature tissue and in the absence of somites. Using state of the art technologies, the Murawala Lab is addressing questions such as: what is the cellular source of the tail blastema and what are the underlying molecular mechanisms of tail regeneration.

Tissue metamorphosis

Axolotls are full of wonder. Although they spend most of their life in neoteny, in the lab they are capable of metamorphosis. A single exposure to L-thyroxine transforms axolotl body – they retract their gills and start breathing with their lungs. During metamorphosis they shed their skin and the emerging skin is more compatible with the terrestrial habitat. They lose their fin and their tail rounds up. Interestingly, they can still display tissue regeneration ability, although there is a small decline in the rate and fidelity. The Murawala Lab wants to understand cellular and molecular basis for metamorphosis and its implication on tissue regeneration.

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Lab Members

Minjoo KimResearch Assistant

Marko Pende, Ph.D.Postdoctoral Researcher

Sofia-Christina PapadopoulosGraduate Student, Hannover Medical School

Vijayishwer Singh JamwalGraduate Student, University of Maine

Johannes Roeles, M.D.Resident Physician / Visiting Scientist