A genetically modified jellyfish gives a glimpse of another thought

We owe a lot Our understanding of how memory works in the brain for an unassuming sea slug is called Aplysia californicus. It is about a foot long, reddish brown, and has been favored by scientists since the 1960s because its nerve cells are large enough to jam an electrode.

That’s not the only time researchers have dug deep into the ocean floor in search of our own neurological answers: The giant squid has taught us the fundamentals of action potentials, the method of As a means of transmitting signals along neurons, horseshoe crabs have helped shed light on how our visual system works (despite the fact that it has eight eyes more than we do). The octopus provides detailed information about the development of sleep.

“There is a long and beautiful history of humans going and finding marine invertebrates for any fishing tackle,” said Brady Weissbourd, a postdoctoral scholar in biology and bioengineering at Caltech. ask at that time. Weissbourd is the lead author on a recent newspaper in Cabinet That brings in another creature — a jellyfish that’s been genetically engineered so that its nerve cells light up when they fire. It can give us new insight into the workings of the mind quite unlike our own.

Jellyfish, especially a species found in the Mediterranean known as Clytia hemisphaerica, is the perfect candidate for scientific research. It is about a centimeter wide when fully grown – small enough to fit on a microscope slide – and like many jellyfish, it is transparent. The researchers built that potential by introducing a piece of DNA called GCaMP, which produces a green fluorescent protein. GCaMP has been widely used in research on mice, zebrafish, and flies, but it actually comes from a species of jellyfish closely related to Clytia, so Weissbourd’s team also had to knock out the genes of four other green fluorescent proteins that naturally occur within them.

To insert the glow genes, they took advantage of Clytiasingle life cycle of. Its reproductive system is activated by light. “Exactly two hours after the lights came on, the jellyfish dropped eggs and sperm into the water,” said Weissbourd. The researchers turned on the lights, collected the eggs, and injected them with the code for the green fluorescence they wanted to insert, along with a protein that helps bind it to the jellyfish’s DNA.

The fertilized eggs develop into larvae, which swim around looking for a hard surface to cling to — in the wild, this could be a rock, in the lab, a microscope is a substitute. useful position. From there, they grow a small polyp that grows in a swarm. These colonies are essentially immortal, and they release protozoa that, in a few weeks, develop into the gelatinous, shower-cap-like creatures we call jellyfish. “They’re more like a flower or something,” says Weissbourd. “Their job is to go out and plant the seeds.”

Now, the researchers have an organism they can observe under the microscope as it eats (a diet consisting of mashed brine shrimp) and folds its body, while its neurons controls the behavior that glows. “You can do high-resolution experiments, looking at all the neuronal activity over time while the animal is active,” says Weissbourd. They can basically read its mind — and it’s a brain very different from anything we’re familiar with.


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