Ever since newts were discovered 250 years ago, scientists have theorized that a newt’s ability to regenerate body parts declines as it grows older. However, this theory was contradicted by a study completed in 2010.
Newts are brown, black, red, and yellow aquatic amphibians that belong to the salamander family. They typically weigh about two ounces and are about 10 centimeters long. This species is most famous for its ability to regrow body parts.
Panagiotis Tsonis, a biologist at the University of Dayton, wanted to know how many times a newt could regenerate a body part. To find out, he and his colleagues removed a newt’s eye lens and waited for the newt to grow a new one. Once the new lens grew, the researchers removed it again and again, repeating this process 18 times over the course of 16 years.
The newt involved in this study was about 30 years old, equivalent to 100 human years, when it regenerated its 18th eye lens. Despite its age, the newt was still growing lenses that were practically as functional as the original ones, as well as being identical to other newts’ eye lenses which had never been removed.
Tsonis suggested, therefore, that the most important finding from this study is how well the newt regrew its eye lenses, even as it aged. He hopes that soon scientists will be able to duplicate this regenerative ability in human beings, especially in aging individuals.
“We are still a long way from relating this to humans, but what this shows is that the newt is an excellent source for finding answers to regeneration, particularly as it relates to old age,” Tsonis said. “The newt not only has good regeneration properties, but it has the ability to protect and preserve regeneration, he added”