Scientists at the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) have identified several genes linked to human neurological disorders, including Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease and spinal cord injury, in the sea lamprey, a vertebrate fish whose whole-genome sequence is reported this week in the journal Nature Genetics.
"This means that we can use the sea lamprey as a powerful model to drive forward our molecular understanding of human neurodegenerative disease and neurological disorders," says Jennifer Morgan of the MBL's Eugene Bell Center for Regenerative Biology and Tissue Engineering. The ultimate goals are to determine what goes wrong with neurons after injury and during disease, and to determine how to correct these deficits in order to restore normal nervous system functions.
Unlike humans, the lamprey has an extraordinary capacity to regenerate its nervous system. If a lamprey's spinal cord is severed, it can regenerate the damaged nerve cells and be swimming again in 10-12 weeks.
Morgan and her collaborators at MBL, Ona Bloom and Joseph Buxbaum, have been studying the lamprey's recovery from spinal cord injury since 2009. The lamprey has large, identified neurons in its brain and spinal cord, making it an excellent model to study regeneration at the single cell-level. Now, the lamprey's genomic information gives them a whole new "toolkit" for understanding its regenerative mechanisms, and for comparing aspects of its physiology, such as inflammation response, to that of humans.
The lamprey genome project was accomplished by a consortium of 59 researchers led by Weiming Li of Michigan State University and Jeramiah Smith of the University of Kentucky. The MBL scientists' contribution focused on neural aspects of the genome, including one of the project's most intriguing findings.
Lampreys, in contrast to humans, don't have myelin, an insulating sheath around neurons that allows faster conduction of nerve impulses. Yet the consortium found genes expressed in the lamprey that are normally expressed in myelin. In humans, myelin-associated molecules inhibit nerves from regenerating if damaged. "A lot of the focus of the spinal cord injury field is on neutralizing those inhibitory molecules," Morgan says.
"So there is an interesting conundrum," Morgan says. "What are these myelin-associated genes doing in an animal that doesn't have myelin, and yet is good at regeneration? It opens up a new and interesting set of questions, " she says. Addressing them could bring insight to why humans lost the capacity for neural regeneration long ago, and how this might be restored.
At present, Morgan and her collaborators are focused on analyzing which genes are expressed and when, after spinal cord injury and regeneration. The whole-genome sequence gives them an invaluable reference for their work.
Morgan, Bloom, and Buxbaum collaborate at the MBL through funding by the Charles Evans Foundation. Bloom is based at the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research/Hofstra North Shore-Long Island Jewish in New York. Buxbaum is from Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York.
Smith JJ et al (2013) Sequencing of the sea lamprey (Petromyzon marinus) genome provides insight into vertebrate evolution. Nature Genetics: DOI: 10.1038/ng.2568
The Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) is dedicated to scientific discovery and improving the human condition through research and education in biology, biomedicine, and environmental science. Founded in 1888 in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, the MBL is an independent, nonprofit corporation. A corps of more than 270 scientists and support personnel pursue research year-round at the MBL, joined each year by more than 400 visiting scientists, summer staff, and research associates from hundreds of institutions around the world. Among the scientists with a significant affiliation with the MBL are 55 Nobel Laureates (since 1929).
Diana Kenney | EurekAlert!
Cells migrate collectively by intermittent bursts of activity
30.09.2016 | Aalto University
The structure of the BinAB toxin revealed: one small step for Man, a major problem for mosquitoes!
30.09.2016 | CNRS (Délégation Paris Michel-Ange)
Heavy construction machinery is the focus of Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s latest advance in additive manufacturing research. With industry partners and university students, ORNL researchers are designing and producing the world’s first 3D printed excavator, a prototype that will leverage large-scale AM technologies and explore the feasibility of printing with metal alloys.
Increasing the size and speed of metal-based 3D printing techniques, using low-cost alloys like steel and aluminum, could create new industrial applications...
Friction stir welding is a still-young and thus often unfamiliar pressure welding process for joining flat components and semi-finished components made of light metals.
Scientists at the University of Stuttgart have now developed two new process variants that will considerably expand the areas of application for friction stir welding.
Technologie-Lizenz-Büro (TLB) GmbH supports the University of Stuttgart in patenting and marketing its innovations.
Friction stir welding is a still-young and thus often unfamiliar pressure welding process for joining flat components and semi-finished components made of...
Optical quantum computers can revolutionize computer technology. A team of researchers led by scientists from Münster University and KIT now succeeded in putting a quantum optical experimental set-up onto a chip. In doing so, they have met one of the requirements for making it possible to use photonic circuits for optical quantum computers.
Optical quantum computers are what people are pinning their hopes on for tomorrow’s computer technology – whether for tap-proof data encryption, ultrafast...
The Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP has been developing various applications for OLED microdisplays based on organic semiconductors. By integrating the capabilities of an image sensor directly into the microdisplay, eye movements can be recorded by the smart glasses and utilized for guidance and control functions, as one example. The new design will be debuted at Augmented World Expo Europe (AWE) in Berlin at Booth B25, October 18th – 19th.
“Augmented-reality” and “wearables” have become terms we encounter almost daily. Both can make daily life a little simpler and provide valuable assistance for...
With the help of artificial intelligence, chemists from the University of Basel in Switzerland have computed the characteristics of about two million crystals made up of four chemical elements. The researchers were able to identify 90 previously unknown thermodynamically stable crystals that can be regarded as new materials. They report on their findings in the scientific journal Physical Review Letters.
Elpasolite is a glassy, transparent, shiny and soft mineral with a cubic crystal structure. First discovered in El Paso County (Colorado, USA), it can also be...
30.09.2016 | Event News
29.09.2016 | Event News
28.09.2016 | Event News
30.09.2016 | Materials Sciences
30.09.2016 | Earth Sciences
30.09.2016 | Life Sciences