Of Simple Sea Animals Could Help Cure Neural Disorders
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[May 22, 2014]
By Barbara Liston
ORLANDO Fla. (Reuters) - A Florida
scientist studying simple sea animals called comb jellies has found the
road map to a new form of brain development that could lead to
treatments for Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and other neurodegenerative
"There is more than one way to make a brain," University of
Florida researcher Leonid Moroz, who led an international research
team, told Reuters.
Moroz said his research, published on Wednesday in a report in the
magazine Nature, also places comb jelly-like creatures on the first
branch of the animal kingdom's "tree of life," replacing and bumping
up sponge-like species from the bottom rung of evolutionary
Moroz said that finding should lead to a reclassification of the
animal kingdom's "tree of life" and reshape two centuries of
Comb jellies are different from common jellyfish.
Moroz said his team found that comb jellies' molecular makeup and
the way they developed was radically different - although still
complex - from all other animals, involving different genes and
Traditional scientific reasoning has held that simple nerve nets
evolved all the way up to a human level of complexity along a single
path. But it now appears that comb jellies took a different route,
using neurochemical language that does not exist in other animals.
"All other animals have the same chemical language and these guys
have completely different language. It's not only different grammar.
It's a different alphabet," Moroz said.
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Comb jellies, for example, don't use dopamine, implicated in
Parkinson's disease, to control brain activity. They also can
regenerate their brains in less than four days. In one experiment, a
comb jelly regenerated its brain four times.
"Now we know we can construct neural systems differently," Moroz
Moroz said degenerative brain diseases typically can be treated to
stall progression but not reversed.
Discovering the key to regeneration, or appropriating the comb
jellies' different chemical languages, could lead to advancements in
synthetic and regenerative medicine, he said.
(Editing by Kevin Gray and Eric Walsh)
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