Sea Lamprey Intrigues Scientists

The lamprey, a jawless vertebrate, “has a radically different immune system than humans and other jawed vertebrates, but it may offer the same protection in recognizing invaders and alerting damage-control elements,” according to UAB’s Howard Hughes Investigator Max Cooper, M.D. A study by Cooper, Zeev Pancer, Ph.D., and colleagues was published in the July 9 issue of Nature.

Cooper, a developmental immunologist, is known for his work that helped delineate T and B cells in birds and mammals. “How the discovery of another kind of adaptive immune system will affect us is not clear, but it does open up exciting theoretical paths. It’s also possible that lamprey immune receptors will be useful in disease diagnosis and treatment.”

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