These clever little critters could teach us how to regrow cartilage.

Repairing the worn-out cartilage in your dicky knee or even growing a whole new leg could one day be as simple as switching on your “inner salamander”, according to new research published in Science Advances.

The salamander – one incarnation of which is the bizarre-looking axolotl or Mexican walking fish – has the enviable ability to regrow entire limbs and even bits of major organs after an unfortunate accident.

It’s a trick that would be very handy for people who have worn out the cartilage lining their hip or knee. Wear and tear can lead to bone scraping on bone and painful osteoarthritis, a leading reason for joint replacement surgery.

It has been thought that cartilage has a limited capacity to repair itself. But the new research, led by rheumatologist Virginia Kraus from the Duke University School of Medicine in North Carolina, US, finds that humans have an axolotl-style “switch” that could turn on cartilage growth.

Read the full story in Cosmos magazine here