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Marine Roundup

September 23, 2005

Sea sponges’ simple immune systems are proving useful in medical research.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):
Sponge surgery. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Exactly what happens when transplant recipients reject an organ is still a mystery. Researchers at the Marine Biological Lab in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, are turning to the red beard sea sponge to help solve it. The sponge has finger-like projections that scientists can transplant from one sponge to another. The resulting immune response is a primitive version of what happens in humans, but much easier to study in the lab.

In other marine research, Oregon State University scientists report on a tiny, ubiquitous group of marine bacteria called SAR11. Unknown just fifteen years ago, these bacteria are so plentiful that if you put them on a scale, they’d outweigh all the fish in the ocean. The new research deals with the influence these organisms have on global climate.

I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.