This is a starlet sea anemone. And when it comes to the nervous system it really is a starlet. Unlike humans, this tiny creature can regenerate an entire new nervous system as an adult. Humans are not good at replacing damaged nerve cells – which may arise from injury or stroke – because our whole nervous system arose from a single cluster of neural stem cells when we were embryos. These are not around when we become adults. However, a team of scientists has discovered that the difference between sea anemone and human neural stem cells is not so great. This raises the possibility that one day these little nerve-growing experts could give us a few clues about how to regenerate damaged nerve cells in humans.
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.
BPoD is also available in Catalan at www.bpod.cat with translations by the University of Valencia.