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!
Fingerprint' technique spots frog populations at risk from pollution
27.03.2017 | Lancaster University
Parallel computation provides deeper insight into brain function
27.03.2017 | Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (OIST) Graduate University
Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.
The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.
Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...
Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.
Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...
In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...
20.03.2017 | Event News
14.03.2017 | Event News
07.03.2017 | Event News
27.03.2017 | Earth Sciences
27.03.2017 | Life Sciences
27.03.2017 | Life Sciences