A team of researchers has discovered that the primitive hydra is useful in research to combat Huntington's disease and Alzheimer's disease.
In the March 14 online version of Nature, University of California, Irvine biologists Robert Steele and Hans Bode and an international team of researchers write that the microscopic hydra has about the same number of genes as humans--and actually share many of the same ones.
They also found genes linked with Huntington's disease and with the beta-amyloid plaque formation seen in Alzheimer's disease, suggesting the possible use of hydra as a research model for these two diseases.
"Having the Hydra genome sequenced also enhances our ability to use it to learn more about the basic biology of stem cells, which are showing great promise for new treatments for a host of injuries and diseases," Steele says in a statement.
The freshwater hydra was first described about 300 years ago and has been the subject of study ever since.