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MBL scientists get on squid's nerves

MBL, WOODS HOLE, MA--The next time you bite into a tasty order of fried calamari, consider this: scientists are interested in the calamari squid not for dinner, but for all it is teaching them about nerve cells and the neurological conditions that result when nerve cells malfunction.

That's why scientists at the MBL (Marine Biological Laboratory) have recently launched the Squid Genome Project, a scientific collaboration to identify the genes of the long-finned squid--information they say will aid in the complex process of researching debilitating neurological diseases, including Multiple Sclerosis, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), Parkinson's, Huntington's, and Alzheimer's disease.

The effort is being co-directed by MBL/NIH neuroscientist Joe DeGiorgis and Dutch researcher J. Peter H. Burbach, of the Rudolf Magnus Institute of Neuroscience, University Medical Center Utrecht, and supported by funding from the NIH and the Netherlands Brain Foundation HsN. The project unites scientists from around the world, including some of the 41 researchers who conducted squid research at the MBL this year.

Aside from being a seafood delicacy, the calamari squid has a nerve cell fiber, called a giant axon, which is 1,000 times wider than the average human axon and much easier to see and work with.

For more than 75 years, these locally available squid have helped MBL scientists demystify important nervous system functions, such as how nerve cells communicate; how proteins, organelles, and other cargoes are transported along the axon; and how nerves conduct electricity. Since all life forms have similar basic cellular functions, scientists can translate what they learn from a simple system like the squid's to the more complex system in humans.

But researchers hoping to understand neurological diseases by studying squid have reached the point where they need genetic information. So they've set out to identify the genes that encode t
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Contact: Gina Hebert
ghebert@mbl.edu
508-289-7725
Marine Biological Laboratory
17-Oct-2005


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