SCIENTISTS FROM Agharkar Research Institute at Pune, in collaboration with University of Hyderabad, have for the first time discovered two important molecules from the hydra. The study is significant as it provides compelling evidence that humans have evolved from simpler common ancestors through biological evolution as proposed by Charles Darwin in 1859.
The study has been published in the scientific journal Developmental Dynamics published by American Association for Anatomy and is useful to the scientific community to understand tissue and organ regeneration. Hydra is a freshwater organism with a simple body and a spectacular ability to regenerate. If cut into pieces, almost every piece of the hydra can regenerate into a new one. Scientists have been interested in finding the secrets of regeneration in the hydra.
Gremlin and noggin, the molecules discovered in this study, play crucial roles in how cells “talk to each other”. By using a combination of conventional and modern techniques, this study shows that noggin and gremlin play a role in tentacle formation and budding of the hydra. Scientists used specific chemicals to interfere with normal development/pattern formation and deciphered the functions of the two proteins.
These molecules are also present in humans but play different roles. Such research helps us study biological evolution and understand how complex bodies like a fish, monkey, giraffe or a human are built by using identical or similar molecules (proteins), Dr Surendra Ghaskadbi, an emeritus scientist at Developmental Biology Group of MACS-Agharkar Research Institute (MACS-ARI), told The Indian Express. Dr K L Surekha and Prof N Siva Kumar were among other researchers from University of Hyderabad.
According to the researchers, this study has important implications for evolution of animal body plans. Evolution of body axes were partly responsible for the evolution of complex body plans. Humans, for example, have three body axes — dorsal-ventral (back-front), anterior-posterior (head-toe) and left-right — and have bilateral symmetry (two eyes, two hands, two legs, etc).
The axes develop quite early as development of organs and systems at proper locations in the body depends on them. For example, the brain cannot develop in the head region unless anterior-posterior is decided. Unlike humans, hydra has an oral-aboral axis and radial symmetry (like that of a starfish). In spite of these basic differences in the body plan, proteins that decide axes in hydra as well as in more complex animals, including humans, are often similar.
For example, noggin is crucial for development of dorsal structures in humans but is also required for tentacle formation in hydra, Dr Ghaskadbi said.
Low cost hydra kit developed at MACS-ARI
To help those who wish to begin work on the hydra, MACS-ARI has come out with a non-commercial, low-cost hydra kit, the first of its kind in the world, said scientists at the institute. They added that with this kit, hydra could be grown and maintained for the purposes of teaching and research.
Dr Ghaskadbi said the institute had already supplied this kit to many organisations in India, and that the hydra could also be used for toxicity testing of drugs and for monitoring water pollution by industry as well as government and NGOs while also being an excellent replacement for animal experiments banned due to ethical consideration.
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