Insight into our sensory development from organisms like sea anemones
Waving around in coastal lagoons, starlet sea anemones (Nematostella vectensis) use tiny hair cells on their tentacles (highlighted here in green) to search for prey. A gene called pou-iv helps these hairs to develop. While we don’t have tentacles, researchers find a human version of pou-iv helps us grow other mechanosensory hair cells – in our ears. Cnidaria like anemones and animals like humans share a common ancestor and a legacy of nervous systems wired in similar ways. This fascinating link between ancient touch and human hearing may shed light on the evolution of many different species along the way, but also suggests N. vectensis, already a model organism for studying reproductive biology, may hold clues to human sensory development.
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.