MDI Biological Laboratory

MDI Bio Lab Scientists Share Salamander Secrets

  • October 20, 2023

“AxoBase is an enabling resource. It enables biology to get done.” -- from a recent publication in the Node. 

The Node, a bioscience publication hosted by the journal Development recently highlighted work by Prayag Murawala, Joel Graber and James Godwin (all Ph.D.s). They are at the forefront of a new effort to create a scientific clearinghouse for information about axolotl, the Mexican salamander whose regenerative capacities are gaining recognition as a powerful resource for biomedical discovery.

Joined by colleagues such as Harvard’s Jessica Whited, Ph.D., they are helping to create an open-access web platform to provide centralized access to datasets, transgenic lines, shared nomenclatures and other information useful to the growing world of axolotl researchers and the broader scientific community.

It’s called AxoBase. And it’s aligned with previous efforts with more traditional models for human health, such as XenBase, which is dedicated to data and research tools for the Xenopus frog, or EchinoBase, for model animals such as sea stars and sea urchin.

“We are all about aggregation, integration and connection to other organisms,” they told The Node, which is hosted by the journal Development. “The great challenge with axolotl is it breaks tools because the sequence is so large.”

Murawala notes that the axolotl genome is 10 times as large as ours. And while that may seem daunting in terms of data management and analysis, he adds, “due to (such) challenges, it remains unexplored. And anything that is unexplored can also provide opportunities for new discoveries.”