By Mina Ghobrial

After completing high-definition genome sequencing on the Japanese Sea Cucumber (Apostichopus japonicus), scientists have new molecular insights when it comes to the science of regeneration. After mapping 92% of the megabases, the genome of A. japonicus was compared with that of sea urchins and other organisms that share the same taxonomical class. While sea urchins have over thirty genes responsible for biomineralization (and thus the formation of their hard, outer, calcium shells), sea cucumbers only have seven, which are available in lower frequencies over the course of their development. As a result, sea cucumbers have softer bodies. However, their defense mechanism involves expelling internal abdominal organs (viscera), in the hopes of scaring off predators. Within a few weeks, the viscera regenerate. Scientists have found a group of duplicated genes known as the PSP94-like genes that have only been found in A. japonicus, and were expressed in their intestines. Another group of genes, known as fibrinogen-related proteins, also contributed to this capacity. The uses of this discovery are likely to serve as a foundation for other forms of animal regenerative medicine, and eventually human medicine. In the meantime, the information will be used to breed additional sea cucumbers, which are used as both food and elements of Chinese medicine. 

PLOS. (2017, October 12). The sea cucumber genome points to genes for tissue regeneration: Genomic sequence may aid their use as food, medicine, and research organisms. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 22, 2017 from