Researchers learn that one of the simplest animals on earth could lead to one of the largest modern medical discoveries.
A study released on Wednesday finds comb jellies have a regenerative nervous system that differs from every other animal on earth, which could lead to innovative methods to treat Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
Researchers from the University of Florida discovered that comb jellies, also known as “aliens of the sea,” took a completely different route in genomic evolution from every other animal in the world. This route led them to accomplish marvelous things like swift regeneration of lost body parts or even repairing an elementary brain.
Regenerating neural tissue is absolutely astounding considering that humans cannot even repair neural tissue, let alone recreate lost tissue. It comes as no surprise that neurobiologists and medical researchers are excited to uncover more about how the jellies have managed this alien function.
Moroz’s team pieced together evidence that shakes up one of the fundamental beliefs in evolutionary biology, claiming comb jellies denote the oldest branch in the animal family tree, not simple sea sponges, which were traditionally believed to be the oldest. Their evidence found the comb jellies neuron’s use entirely different pathways to communicate, as opposed to neurotransmitters (chemical messages) that almost all other animals use.
These findings are a big break for medical researchers studying neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, which main difficulties lie in the fact that nervous tissue is the one of the only tissues that cannot be repaired in humans. If scientists can learn how the comb jellies nervous system develops, they may be able to treat, or even cure these terminal diseases.
Biologist Antonis Rokas of Vanderbilt University, who was not involved with the work said,
“It’s almost like evolution has given us two different blueprints for building a structure that’s very important. If your goal is to make a nervous system, it doesn’t matter what the parts are in some ways. You could potentially mix and match. The more parts you have, the more solutions.”