Salamanders are a biological miracle: they are the only vertebrates that can regenerate entire limbs, a capacity for healing unmatched in the animal kingdom. Lizards can grow new tails, and human children can regrow the tips of their fingers, but only the salamander can cook up perfect shoulders, elbows, wrists and hands from scratch.
And it’s a perfect mystery how they do it. If we only understood how their cells do this wonderful thing, what else would we know about biology and healing? How would it change health care? Our ignorance and our potential are dizzying.
And yet progress has been made: in 2010, researchers reported on a mammalian gene that suppresses regenerative function. When the gene is turned off, presto: animals that couldn’t regenerate suddenly can.
The salamander’s talent is an ideal symbol for what therapists do: for how much there is to learn, and for learning itself, the regeneration of our minds if not our limbs!
The SaveYourself.ca salamander does not believe everything he hears. The salamander is not a sucker. The salamander watches MythBusters. Sometimes the salamander squints at stupid ideas in health care and says, “Meh.”
When something seems too good to be true, the salamander rolls his beady little eyes, heaves a sigh, and gets ready to do brain battle with the forces of the evil Lord Gullible. The salamander is especially irritated by big promises. He is just not that impressed by a lot of expensive therapies.
The salamander is living, breathing proof that there are miracles enough in biology without inventing new ones.
Sometimes you just need to hear sense from a salamander.
Fine, dash my hopes with all your crazy logic and science. Be that way.
Most of the time it’s hard not to heal. You couldn’t stop it if you tried. The body is going to recover from most kinds of injuries, almost no matter what — it’s just a matter of time.
But stubborn pain problems, the subject of this website, are different by definition. Sometimes either healing itself fails, or pain persists even when the tissues are fine, or a bit of both. Repetitive strain injuries, for instance, are slow-motion traumas that often seem immune to recovery — this is what makes them both terrible and fascinating. They usually don’t heal because they need more rest than most people will give them, but sometimes healing just doesn’t work. Sometimes bone fractures and lesions will not close (a problem every surgeon dreads).
The regenerative healing powers of the salamander are amazing and bizarre… but they are darkly reflected in the human wounds that do not heal.
Salamanders still win — they are just better at regeneration than anybody else, in every way — but this 2012 news is still really cool: “Biologist discovers mammal with salamander-like regenerative abilities.” The African spiny mouse does a far better job at regenerating than any other known mammal.
What does electricity have to do with salamanders? Read all about it! The Body Electric: Electromagnetism and the foundation of life, a book by Robert O Becker and Gary Selden. amazon.com A fascinating exploration of the most under-rated, neglected mysteries in biology.
Are you skeptical too? See the SaveYourself Reading Guide for Skeptics.