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Hideous sea lamprey, distant ancestor of man, could hold key to Alzheimer's Disease

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Sea-LampreyTHE Sea Lamprey, a grotesque marine parasite, could help end Alzheimer's Disease and even help spinal injury patients walk again.

The creature, whose genome was finally sequenced earlier this month, split from the human lineage about 500 million years ago. However, the lamprey has the extraordinary capacity to regenerate its nervous system. If a lamprey's spinal cord is severed, it can regenerate the damaged nerve cells and be swimming again in 10-12 weeks.

And it is this facility, coupled with our shared ancestry, which scientists at the US Marine Biological Laboratory, in Cape Cod, hope may provide major insight into Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease and spinal cord injury.

Jennifer Morgan of the MBL's Eugene Bell Center for Regenerative Biology and Tissue Engineering said: "This means that we can use the sea lamprey as a powerful model to drive forward our molecular understanding of human neurodegenerative disease and neurological disorders."

The ultimate goals are to determine what goes wrong with neurons after injury and during disease, and to determine how to correct these deficits in order to restore normal nervous system functions.

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