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article imageRemarkable biology of the crayfish revealed

By Tim Sandle     Aug 16, 2014 in Science
The blood cells in adult crayfish can form neurons, according to a new paper. The research supports the theory of trans-differentiation, in which cells of one type contribute to tissues that originate from a different part of an animal's body.
Invertebrate crustaceans have a different type of blood to most creatures. Crustaceans like crayfish lack oxygen-carrying red blood cells or lymphoid cells. Instead the immune system of the crayfish relies on hemocytes.
In recent research, Jeanne Benton of Wellesley College a looked at hemocyte DNA in two species of crayfish: Procambarus clarkii and Pacifastacus leniusculus. As part of their study, the researchers labeled the hemocytes with a special chemical called EdU.
Several weeks later, according to The Scientist, the researchers found these labeled hemocytes in brain clusters where adult-born neurons differentiate. The cells also expressed appropriate neurotransmitters. Later analysis found that the number of cells within this ability could be increased or decreased by altering the crustaceans’ total hemocyte count.
So, what is the significance of this? According to New Scientist, the results may support the possibility of trans-differentiation. This is where cells derived from one embryonic germ layer can contribute to tissues that originated from a different layer. Significantly, understanding the mechanisms at play could help researchers reprogram human cells to treat neurodegenerative disorders.
The research has been reported to the journal Developmental Cell. The research is titled "Cells from the Immune System Generate Adult-Born Neurons in Crayfish."
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