In addition to the work Michael J. Fox is doing to publicize Parkinson’s, the fight against this brain disease has a new possible ally – the sea gooseberry (Pleurobrachia bachei), a comb jelly found in the North Pacific Ocean.
Leonid Moroz, a neuroscientist at the University of Florida, has been researching the genome of this animal. What he has found is that the sea gooseberry’s genome doesn’t include genes found in other animals, like those used in brain function. With this in mind, he contends that the comb jelly’s nervous system evolved independently after branching out from other animals roughly 500 million years ago.
Moroz says that even though comb jellies developed in a totally different way compared to other animals, their molecular makeup is still complex. What he and his team are learning about brain development in comb jellies could lead to advances in regenerative medicine.
Watch sea gooseberries below. Their sparkle doesn’t come from bioluminescence (a chemical reaction within the body), but rather from light reflecting and refracting off tiny rows of combs that move in a wave-like motion.
Written by Karen Horak, writer-editor, content and digital experience at the Vancouver Aquarium.