Featured Image Credit: National Geographic
By: Natasha Lehr
We think of sea urchins as simple animals, yet there is something complex within their genome.
Sea urchins are known for their ability to regrow spines and feet throughout their lives, but how they do it is not completely understood. Since sea urchins fall prey to other marine animals, this ability is a lifesaver considering some sea urchins live over 100 years. A recent study on the regenerative capabilities of sea urchins revealed some surprising new information about these creatures.
Scientists at the Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory in Maine discovered that different species of sea urchin shared the ability to regenerate and reproduce, regardless of age. The study involved three species of sea urchin: the variegated sea urchin with a short life expectancy (4 years), the purple sea urchin with an intermediate life expectancy (50 years), and the red sea urchin with a long life expectancy (100 years).
The scientists hypothesized that the regenerative capacity of the species with a shorter life expectancy, the variegated sea urchin, would decline as the animal aged.
Surprisingly, results showed that this was not the case. Regenerative capabilities of all three species were consistent regardless of age. Scientists also found that even as the sea urchins aged their ability to reproduce did not decline. This contradicts the idea that health and development decline with age.
This intriguing new information may help in understanding human health and aging. Scientists are able to study the genetics of sea urchins and correlate that knowledge to the biomedical field because humans and sea urchins share close similarities in their genomes. Understanding the mechanisms that allow sea urchins to live youthful lives at the genetic level, may help lead to the development of vaccines or possible cures for human diseases.
We may be able to live happier, healthier lives far into the future all thanks to the sea urchin.
Source: Science Daily and Wikipedia