Regeneration is one of the most tantalizing areas of biological research. How are some animals able to regrow body parts following injury? Why can’t humans do the same thing? Can scientists learn the secrets that imbue certain animals with this amazing ability? Could that knowledge someday be used to develop new therapies to help people heal? Jeramiah Smith, Ph.D., is a genomics expert who works with sea lampreys. These jawless, eel-like creatures diverged from our common ancestors in the Cambrian Period, about 500 million years ago. Lampreys have the ability to regenerate spinal cord cells, which is a neat trick for any vertebrate. But Dr. Smith says a big part of the appeal for him in studying these animals lies in excavating the natural history cached in their DNA. “If I had my choice of a career and didn’t have to think about paying for my kids’ school and all that stuff, I would probably be a paleontologist and dig for fossils,” he said. “But really, genomics is almost as pleasing, if not more pleasing than that. By accessing the genomes of these animals, describing them, and then comparing them with other genomes that have been sequenced, you’re often the first person to know what was going on half a billion years ago. It’s sort of like the kid-in-the-dinosaur-museum thing.”
Join Dr. Smith, Assistant Professor, University of Kentucky, as he describes how his research with sea lampreys is shedding light on cancer biology, tissue regeneration, and vertebrate evolution. His presentation, “Ancient Bloodsuckers, Disposable Genes, and What It All Means,” also is a great way to engage young people in scientific and medical research. Undergraduates and other students are welcome to attend.
Natcher Conference Center (Building 45, Balcony B)
Date: Tuesday, April 17, 2018
Time: 2:00 – 3:00 PM
If you are unable to attend, a videocast of the lecture will be available at the NIH VideoCasting and Podcasting website.
Four professors in the Department of Biology — Randal Voss, Jeramiah Smith, Ann Morris, and Ashley Seifert — are undertaking the basic scientific research needed to begin to answer these and other questions. Each of them approaches the problem from a different angle, focusing on different aspects of regeneration, and using different vertebrate models.
To see lab photos of the regeneration team’s project on the University of Kentucky, Department of Biology’s website, visit the link below.