Sea cucumbers and sea urchins could hold the key to looking young

Oct 01, 2012

Sea cucumbers and sea urchins are able to change the elasticity of collagen within their bodies, and could hold the key to maintaining a youthful appearance, according to scientists at Queen Mary, University of London.

The researchers investigated the genes of such as and sea cucumbers, known as echinoderms. They found the genes for "messenger molecules" known as peptides, which are released by cells and tell other cells in their bodies what to do.

The study was published online in the journals PLOS One and General and Comparative Endocrinology.

Project leader Professor Maurice Elphick, from Queen Mary's School of Biological and Chemical Sciences, said: "Probably the most exciting discovery from our research was finding genes encoding peptides that cause rapid stiffening or softening of collagen in the body wall of sea cucumbers.

"Although sea urchins and sea cucumbers may not look much like us, we are actually quite closely related to them. As we get older, changes in collagen cause wrinkling of our skin, so if we can find out how peptides cause the body wall of a sea cucumber to quickly become stiff or soft then our research might lead to new ways to keeping skin looking young and healthy."

The scientists analysed the of thousands of genes in the purple sea urchin Strongylocentrotus purpuratus and the edible Apostichopus japonicus and specifically searched for genes encoding peptide . Rapid advances in technology used to sequence genes made the research possible.

"When the was sequenced over a decade ago it cost millions of pounds – now all of the genes in an animal can be sequenced for just a few thousand pounds," Professor Elphick said.

"We also found that sea urchins have a peptide that is very similar to calcitonin, a hormone that regulates our bones to make sure that they remain strong," Professor Elphick said.

"So it will be fascinating to find out if calcitonin-type peptides have a similar sort of role in spiny-skinned creatures like sea urchins."

"These types of advances in basic science are fascinating in their own right but they are also important because they underpin the medical breakthroughs that lead to improvement in the quality of people's lives."

Explore further: Automating the selection process for a genome assembler

Related Stories

Sea urchins see with their whole body

Jun 30, 2011

Many animals have eyes that are incredibly complex – others manage without. Researchers at the University of Gothenburg have shown that sea urchins see with their entire body despite having no eyes at ...

Sea cucumbers could be key to preserving coral reefs

Jan 31, 2012

(PhysOrg.com) -- Tropical sea cucumbers could play a key role in saving coral reefs from the devastating effects of climate change, say scientists at One Tree Island, the University of Sydney's research station ...

Sea urchins cannot control invasive seaweeds

Jul 13, 2011

Exotic marine species, including giant seaweeds, are spreading fast, with harmful effects on native species, and are increasingly affecting the biodiversity of the Mediterranean seabed. Some native species, ...

Xenacoelomorpha -- a new phylum in the animal kingdom

Feb 16, 2011

An international team of scientists including Albert Poustka from the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Genetics in Berlin has discovered that Xenoturbellida and the acoelomorph worms, both simple marine ...

Recommended for you

Studies steadily advance cellulosic ethanol prospects

11 hours ago

At the Agricultural Research Service's Bioenergy Research Unit in Peoria, Illinois, field work and bench investigations keep ARS scientists on the scientific front lines of converting biomass into cellulosic ...

User comments : 3

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Mike_Massen
1 / 5 (1) Oct 01, 2012
Skin needs elastin and collagen, arent each of these based on good levels of Copper in mammals ?

Can we assume a typical western diet is optimum for our skin and ALL other organs we so much depend upon ?

VendicarD
3 / 5 (2) Oct 01, 2012
Attach one sea urchin to each of your nipples, and you will look young all day long.

I done read it on a Republican Science Blog called "Whatts up with your nipples"
ziphead
5 / 5 (1) Oct 02, 2012
Skin needs elastin and collagen, arent each of these based on good levels of Copper in mammals ?

Can we assume a typical western diet is optimum for our skin and ALL other organs we so much depend upon ?



... you and your microelement fetish again... so go chew on your copper pipes, live long and prosper.