Seminar: Andrea Bodnar (Gloucester Marine Genomics Institute)
Title: Sea Urchins as Models for Aging and Cancer Research
Speaker: Dr. Andrea Bodnar (Science Director, Gloucester Marine Genomics Institute)
Abstract: The oceans are home to many of the earth’s longest lived animals with several species of non-colonial marine invertebrates documented to live for more than 100 years. Many of these animals grow and reproduce throughout their lifespans with no apparent functional decline or increase in mortality rate with age. Sea urchins represent a tractable model to study the molecular, cellular and physiological mechanisms underlying both lifespan determination and negligible aging. Sea urchins grow indeterminately, continually regenerate damaged appendages, and reproduce throughout their lifespan and yet different species of sea urchins have very different reported lifespans ranging from 2 to more than 100 years. Studies to date have demonstrated maintenance of telomeres, maintenance of antioxidant and proteasome enzyme activities and little accumulation of oxidative cellular damage with age in tissues of sea urchin species with different lifespans. Gene expression studies indicate that key cellular pathways involved in protein homeostasis, tissue regeneration and nerve function are maintained with age. Taken together, these studies suggest that long-term maintenance of mechanisms that sustain tissue homeostasis and regenerative capacity is essential for indeterminate growth and negligible aging, and a better understanding of these processes may reveal effective strategies to prevent or treat age-related degenerative diseases in humans. Maintenance of tissue homeostasis relies on the accurate regulation of somatic and stem cell activity to balance growth and repair of damage while at the same time avoiding unchecked, abnormal cell growth that defines cancer. As neoplasms are rarely seen in sea urchins, they provide an additional unique opportunity to understand the regulatory factors involved in long-term tissue homeostasis and regeneration without conferring predisposition to cancer development.