BAR HARBOR – Studies are showing that sea urchins may be key in finding ways to slow down the aging of humans.
Who would have thought that little red spiky water porcupines, Could be the next step helping to keep you young? Scientists at MDI Biological Laboratory are studying the red sea urchin in hopes of finding out ways to slow down the aging process in humans.
“What happens when we age, we lose our regenerative capacity and when we lose that, our bodies deteriorate,” said James A. Coffman, Ph.D., a scientist at MDI.
According to those at MDI, some species of sea urchins live to be more than 100 years old with no signs of aging.
“One of the organism I study in my laboratory is a sea urchin and the sea urchin has been a model system well over 100 years in understanding early development of early embryonic development,” said Coffman.
Coffman is working with other top scientists around the world comparing different species of sea urchins.
“What we discovered, even the short lived species, appear to not lose regenerative capacity,” said Coffman, “even at the oldest age that they achieve,the largest and oldest we have found, were just as regenerative as the younger ones.”
He used to think that short lived species would go through aging, but after studying sea urchins, he now has a different opinion.
“It’s a mystery why they are so short lived. We haven’t answered that question. There are many possibilities,” said Coffman “the idea that we had going in – that they were short lived because they undergo more rapid aging, which turned out to not be the case.”
He hopes that they can one day develop a way to awaken dormant genetic pathways in humans.
“On the theory of aging – which is that, short lived animals in the wild, If they have a high mortality they will evolve aging. It’s caused by genes that promote rapid growth and development,” said Coffman.
They will continue to study what causes some animals to not age, so that they can understand why humans lack that ability.