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	Heat maps showing age-related changes in gene expression in <em>S. purpuratus</em> tissues.</p>

Heat maps showing age-related changes in gene expression in S. purpuratus tissues.

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	A variagated sea urchin (<em>Lytechinus variagatus</em>) displaying clipped spines and tube feet in a test for regenerative properties.</p>

A variagated sea urchin (Lytechinus variagatus) displaying clipped spines and tube feet in a test for regenerative properties.

Sea urchins are among the earth's longest lived animals, with some species living up to 200 years without showing signs of aging, cancer, or other age-related diseases. Due to their high genetic similarity to humans, many discoveries made in sea urchins are directly relevant to human biology. Understanding how these animals live such long and healthy lives may help identify novel strategies to keep humans healthy throughout our lives.

In the Molecular Discovery Lab at BIOS, researchers are using sea urchins as model organisms to identify pathways involved in cellular resistance to cancer (which can then help target the development of anti-cancer treatments in humans), as well as mechanisms that maintain a youthful state in sea urchins (which can assist in the identification of avenues for the prevention of age-related diseases in humans).

Age-related changes in proteomic profiles of cell-free coelomic fluid from S. purpuratus. Two-dimensional difference gel electrophoresis showing proteins from young sea urchins labeled with Cy3 (green fluorescence) while those of old sea urchins are labeled with Cy5 (red fluorescence).

 

 

Recent investigations in the Molecular Discovery Lab have yielded exciting results, including:

  • Data indicating that sea urchin cells are highly resistant to cancer causing agents, showing very little DNA damage and high survival rates at doses that kill human cells;
  • The suggestion that sea urchins possess efficient cellular defense and repair mechanisms that may contribute to the low incidence of cancer;
  • Data showing that longer-lived species have a greater capacity for tissue regeneration and repair, with the longest-lived species possessing a unique ability to mitigate cellular oxidative damage.