Thread: Science Science is Cool....
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Old 02-02-2013, 01:39 PM   #541
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Originally Posted by Cephalic Trauma View Post
This is really cool.

However, it will not "allow your descendants to live thousands of years or more", mainly because we don't have a polyp stage, we are far more complex, and our cells are governed by different processes.
Yeah, I didn't mean that humans would develop a polyp stage. Just that our research into how this animal does this could have considerable impact in the future. There are correlations between the way the jellyfish goes about cellular differentiation, and the way human stem cells do the same thing. I wouldn't be so hasty to say we can learn nothing because we are such different species....

Do you think that research on this jellyfish will actually yield anything that can be helpful to scientists in terms of human medicine?

"Whenever you have an animal that is capable of doing something unique it has a potential to give us some really novel insights into basic processes. Biochemical engineers in the past few years have made some huge progress in learning how to take an adult cell from a human and deprogram it so it can become like an adult stem cell and then have the flexibility to become like the cells around it are. The advantage there is lets say you have a damaged spinal chord, well if you can un-specialize some of a person’s cells and inject them into that spinal chord they can pick up hints from the cells around them and develop into new nerve cells and hopefully be able to repair the damage. That’s sort of the hope of working with adult stem cells. And it sidesteps the complications of working with embryonic stem cells. Learning how to take adult cells and get them back to the early stage where they can develop into anything is a significant goal of what we want to be able to achieve. Its something that this humble little jelly has as a built in feature of its life cycle. Things get gross around it, it melts down and rebuilds itself from scratch. So I think there is definitely the potential that we could learn some basic things that we could better apply to our own technology for human medicine.”
“There’s a shocking amount of genetic similarity between jellyfish and human beings,” said Kevin J. Peterson, a molecular paleobiologist who contributed to that study, when I visited him at his Dartmouth office. From a genetic perspective, apart from the fact that we have two genome duplications, “we look like a damn jellyfish.”

This may have implications for medicine, particularly the fields of cancer research and longevity. Peterson is now studying microRNAs (commonly denoted as miRNA), tiny strands of genetic material that regulate gene expression. MiRNA act as an on-off switch for genes. When the switch is off, the cell remains in its primitive, undifferentiated state. When the switch turns on, a cell assumes its mature form: it can become a skin cell, for instance, or a tentacle cell. MiRNA also serve a crucial role in stem-cell research — they are the mechanism by which stem cells differentiate. Most cancers, we have recently learned, are marked by alterations in miRNA. Researchers even suspect that alterations in miRNA may be a cause of cancer. If you turn a cell’s miRNA “off,” the cell loses its identity and begins acting chaotically — it becomes, in other words, cancerous.

Hydrozoans provide an ideal opportunity to study the behavior of miRNA for two reasons. They are extremely simple organisms, and miRNA are crucial to their biological development. But because there are so few hydroid experts, our understanding of these species is staggeringly incomplete.


Kubota can be encouraged by the fact that many of the greatest advancements in human medicine came from observations made about animals that, at the time, seemed to have little or no resemblance to man. In 18th-century England, dairymaids exposed to cowpox helped establish that the disease inoculated them against smallpox; the bacteriologist Alexander Fleming accidentally discovered penicillin when one of his petri dishes grew a mold; and, most recently, scientists in Wyoming studying nematode worms found genes similar to those inactivated by cancer in humans, leading them to believe that they could be a target for new cancer drugs. One of the Wyoming researchers said in a news release that they hoped they could “contribute to the arsenal of diverse therapeutic approaches used to treat and cure many types of cancer.”

Last edited by Fish; 02-02-2013 at 01:47 PM..
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