Marine Animal Models for Biomedical Research

The unique adaptations of marine animals have made them valuable models for biomedical research, enhancing our understanding of fundamental biological processes that are relevant to human health. Among the many examples of significant discoveries using marine animals, several have been recognized with Nobel Prizes and have enhanced our understanding of cellular immunology, nerve conduction, photoreceptor function, cell division, and the process of learning and memory. One challenge of expanding the utility of marine animals as models for biomedical research is the lack of genomic and genetic tools available for these fascinating yet understudied organisms. Focus in this area will be in building genomic tools for long-lived, disease resistant marine organisms.

The oceans are home to many of the earth’s longest-lived animals with several marine invertebrates and vertebrates documented to live for more than 100 years. Many of these animals grow and reproduce throughout their lifespans and there is no apparent functional decline, no increased incidence of disease or increase in mortality rate with age. A better understanding of the mechanisms by which these animals achieve their extraordinary life histories may reveal exceptionally effective defenses against the destructive process of aging and suggest novel avenues to prevent or treat human age-related degenerative diseases.

Sea Urchins as Models for Aging and Cancer Research

The red sea urchin (Strongylocentrotus franciscanus) is one of the earth’s longest living animals, living for up to 200 years with life-long growth and reproduction, and no reported cases of cancer. Comparative studies using sea urchin species with different lifespans indicate that long-lived species maintain the ability to regenerate damaged tissues, maintain telomeres and have low levels of oxidative damage in their tissues.

At GMGI we are using a genomics approach to uncover the genetic mechanisms underlying extreme longevity, absence of aging and resistance to cancer in sea urchins. This knowledge may reveal novel strategies to slow the destructive process of aging and identify new avenues for prevention or treatment of age-related diseases such as cancer in humans.

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Our mission is to conduct world-class marine biotechnology research which expands the regional economy.

Gloucester Marine
Genomics Institute

417 Main Street
Gloucester, MA 01930

Gloucester Biotechnology

55 Blackburn Center
Gloucester, MA 01930

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