Alejandro Sánchez Alvarado is fascinated by the fact that the natural ability to restore missing body parts after injury is broadly yet unevenly distributed across the animal kingdom. Why can snails grow new heads after decapitation, or salamanders sprout new limbs, tails, even hearts after amputation? To attack this problem Alvarado, his team and his trainees have collectively developed methods and approaches to dissect this problem at unprecedented levels of molecular, genetic and cellular resolution.
Nature is wonderfully abundant, diverse and mysterious — but biological research today tends to focus on only seven species, including rats, chickens, fruit flies and us. We’re studying an astonishingly narrow sliver of life, says biologist Alejandro Sánchez Alvarado, and hoping it’ll be enough to solve the oldest, most challenging problems in science, like cancer. In this visually captivating talk, Alvarado calls on us to interrogate the unknown and shows us the remarkable discoveries that surface when we do.