Sea urchins are a minor class of marine invertebrates that share genetic similarities with humans. For example, the sea urchin species Strongylocentrotus purpuratus
is estimated to have 23,300 genes in which the majority of vertebrate gene families are enveloped. Some of the sea urchin species can demonstrate extreme longevity, such as Mesocentrotus franciscanus
, living for well over 100 years. Comparing human to sea urchin aging suggests that the latter do not fit within the classic understanding of biological aging, as both long- and short-lived sea urchin species demonstrate negligible senescence. Sea urchins are highly regenerative organisms. Adults can regenerate external appendages and can maintain their regenerative abilities throughout life. They grow indeterminately and reproduce throughout their entire adult life. Both long- and short-lived species do not exhibit age-associated telomere shortening and display telomerase activity in somatic tissues regardless of age. Aging S. purpuratus
urchins show changes in expression patterns of protein coding genes that are involved in several fundamental cellular functions such as the ubiquitin-proteasome system, signaling pathways, translational regulation, and electron transport chain. Sea urchin longevity and senescence research is a new and promising field that holds promise for the understanding of aging in vertebrates and can increase our understanding of human longevity and of healthy aging.
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