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Marine Roundup

September 23, 2005

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


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.