Gene Sequencing of Ancient Fish Provides Insights into Vertebrate Nervous System

MANHASSET, NY – In collaboration with scientists at other research organizations, a Feinstein Institute for Medical Research scientist has discovered that sequencing and analyzing the genome of a fish with ancient origins, the sea lamprey, identified many genes involved in a variety of neurological processes, including human neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. The findings are published in the March issue of Nature Genetics.

Sea lampreys are descendents of a vertebrate lineage dating back approximately 500 million years. The researchers sequenced the lamprey genome and found it has a similar number of genes as mammals, and could better define evolutionary events within vertebrate lineages, such as the origin of myelin-associated proteins. Myelin-associated proteins are important in many neurological disorders, as they play essential roles in nerve function.

“This was a wonderful multi-institutional collaboration to study the genome of the lamprey,” said Ona Bloom, PhD, assistant investigator at the Feinstein Institute and assistant professor at the Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine. “Our interest in this species stems from their amazing ability to regenerate their spinal cord after it has been completely severed. My team and I will continue to study the molecular basis for that amazing ability. It is our hope that this research provides insights into how to promote successful nerve regeneration in other species. In the long-term, these insights may help scientists to understand how to promote regeneration in those who suffer spinal cord injuries.”

Dr. Bloom and her team received funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to study the molecular basis for spinal cord regeneration in the lamprey. The NIH grant number that supported this study is R03 NS078519-01A1.

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