Oh, to be a fish!

If you had the opportunity to be reincarnated as an animal what would you choose? A lion perhaps? An elephant? A dog? Certainly a dog in our house!

A very good friend of mine thinks I’m already reincarnated as an animal. She thinks I am some sort of bovine. She affectionately refers to me as BS.

However, there is a lot to be said, as far as I’m concerned, in coming back as a fish. Not any sort of fish though.

Ona Bloom is a PH student, working on the latest ideas in spinal cord injuries. Here is part of the interview she recently gave about her work.

Scientists have known for years that an ancient species of fish called the lamprey has a remarkable ability to rebuild their spinal cord after it’s been severed. After the lamprey spinal cord is cut, they recover from paralysis to fully swimming again in about twelve weeks, without taking any medicines or other treatments.

We are studying the lamprey because we want to know the recipe of molecular ingredients that supports successful recovery after spinal cord injury.

The genome of this animal was reported about 5 years ago, in a publication led by my colleagues Dr. Jeramiah Smith at the University of Kentucky and Dr. Weiming Li at Michigan State University.

It turns out that many aspects of the lamprey genome are similar to ours, particularly in the central nervous system. Therefore, we think it is a reasonable expectation that what we learn from lamprey could give us some relevant clues about what might be different about the responses in mammals and other animals that are not good at regenerating their spinal cord.

In this study, we found that the expression of many genes in the spinal cord and brain of lampreys change during their recovery from spinal cord injury. Some of the genes that get activated are similar to what happens when our peripheral nervous system is injured, which is better at regenerating than the central nervous system.

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