Randal Voss: Salamander Research at UK
At any given time, hundreds of salamanders are being bred at the University of Kentucky. "We have the only captive-bred salamander population in the world where people can call us up, and we can do the breedings, make those resources and ship them out nationally and internationally," says Randal Voss, a professor of biology and faculty associate of the Spinal Cord and Brain Injury Research Center (SCoBIRC).
With funding from the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, and the Army Research Office, Voss is studying salamander regeneration—something that may one day help people with spinal cord and limb injuries. He is involved in sequencing the salamander genome, and says he has been able to identify genes that explain variation in the rate of regeneration. "But most of the traits that we care about are very complicated in their nature. How long we live, how much we weigh, or the time at which we metamorphose, or regenerate, is probably determined by hundreds to thousands of genes."
In this complex research, Voss says UK offers him a number of advantages over other universities. Close proximity to the medical researchers with whom he collaborates through SCoBIRC, as well as his colleagues in Biology, is one advantage. Another is shared scientific equipment, like the laser capture microscope he's using to select single chromosomes. "One of the great things about UK is we've got a number of these common core facilities, and the instrumentation is there, the expertise is there to help you."