‘Sea aliens’ may gen­er­ate neu­ro­log­i­cal break­throughs

Modern Healthcare - - OUTLIERS ASIDES & INSIDES -

They’re called the aliens of the sea. And they could help point to new ways to in­ves­ti­gate brain dis­eases such as Alzheimer’s or Parkin­son’s.

The beau­ti­ful but lit­tle-known translu­cent an­i­mals called comb jel­lies can rapidly re­gen­er­ate lost body parts. Some can even re­grow a very rudi­men­tary brain. In an in-depth look at the genes of 10 comb jelly species, re­searchers re­port that these mys­te­ri­ous crea­tures have evolved a unique ner­vous sys­tem in a com­pletely dif­fer­ent way than the rest of the an­i­mal king­dom.

In other words, their ner­vous sys­tem has evolved more than once, ac­cord­ing to find­ings pub­lished re­cently by the jour­nal Na­ture that chal­lenges long-stand­ing the­o­ries about an­i­mal de­vel­op­ment.

“This paper proves, on a ge­nomic ba­sis, they’re truly aliens,” Univer­sity of Florida neu­ro­bi­ol­o­gist Leonid Moroz told the As­so­ci­ated Press. Moroz’s team has spent seven years un­rav­el­ing the ge­net­ics be­hind comb jel­lies’ neu­ral pro­gram­ming.

But the find­ings aren’t just about evo­lu­tion­ary his­tory. Comb jel­lies build a ner­vous sys­tem es­sen­tially us­ing their own bi­o­log­i­cal lan­guage, Moroz ex­plained. That could open new trails to in­ves­ti­gate brain dis­eases such as Alzheimer’s or Parkin­son’s—maybe even, one day, the abil­ity to en­gi­neer new neu­rons, Moroz said. They “open to us com­pletely un­ex­pected win­dows,” he said.

Comb jel­lies build a ner­vous sys­tem es­sen­tially us­ing their own bi­o­log­i­cal

lan­guage.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.