By Rich Holmes
Researchers at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole study sea creatures to better understand life processes, which sometimes leads to scientific and medical breakthroughs. One scientist is studying how one such organism – the lamprey – may hold clues to why certain people fall prey to neurological diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
Lampreys – eel-like parasitic fish that are among our earliest vertebrate relatives – possess a nervous system with amazing attributes. Unlike humans, they can regenerate their spinal cord if it is severed. Furthermore, lampreys possess comparatively huge axons, the long arm of the nerve cell or neuron used to transmit a signal to another cell. In humans, axons are a mere micron, or 0.000039 inches, in diameter, said Jennifer Morgan, Ph.D., an associate scientist at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, and director of its Eugene Bell Center for Regenerative Biology and Tissue Engineering. In lampreys, some of the axons measure 20-80 microns in diameter. Read more ..