‘Sea aliens’ may generate neurological breakthroughs
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