Brittle star is forming the basis upon which Scientists at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences Kristineberg Marine Research Station are studying stem cells with the capacity to probe into human and vertebral research, without having to bother about ethical issues.
Amphiura filiformis, or the brittle star, is a lot like the starfish and can grow back the lost arms in a few weeks. Sam Dupont and Mike Thorndyke are presenting their latest work on stem cell research at the Annual Meeting for the Society for Experimental Biology.
In the words of Dr Sam Dupont "What is really amazing is that the nervous system starts to be functional only a few days after the beginning of regeneration. It is a more realistic model for stem cell biology because we can study the cells in the living organism, not just in culture in the lab."
The researchers are intrigued by the recovery of the nervous system in the case of the brittle star, which could pave the way for further understanding and treatment of neurodegenerative diseases. The fact that the brittle star resembles vertebrates, makes it a better choice for a model for such studies, especially with vast regeneration potential, similar to the Hydra.