Humans Share 70% Of Our DNA With.... Sea Sponges??

sea sponge pink photo

Photo via icelight via Flickr CC

Well if there wasn't a good enough reason to save our oceans, there is now because it means saving our relatives, and possibly ourselves. Australian Scientists have completed a study revealing that humans and sea sponges have about 70% of our DNA in common. After completing the genetic sequencing of sea sponges from the Great Barrier Reef, there's no doubt that we're still intricately linked to our most ancient ancestors. But the link is more than an interesting fun fact. It could also play a role in curing human diseases like cancer. According to Yahoo News, the DNA shared between humans and sea sponges includes many that are typically associated with disease and cancer -- and lead researcher Bernard Degnan of the University of Queensland says this means the potential for new breakthroughs in cancer and stem cell research.

"Sponges have what's (considered) the 'Holy Grail' of stem cells," Degnan told AFP. "(It) might actually inform the way we think about our own stem cells and how we might be able to use them in future medical applications."

If saving reefs for the reefs' sake wasn't enough, perhaps throwing a little self-interest into the mix will convince more people to protect what's left of the incredibly delicate ecosystems and the sea sponges and other life that lives in them.

Science Daily reports that sequencing the the DNA of the Great Barrier Reef marine sponge -- a 650 million-year-old group of organisms -- reveals basic information about cancer, including the emergence of a network of specialized cells. The researchers explain that as organisms evolved from single cell to multicellular, a conflict is created in that individual specialized cells want to keep replicating. Cancer is the uncontrolled replication of cells, and understanding the evolution of animals from sea sponges all the way up to primates can help reveal more clues to how cancer works, and can be prevented.

The findings are published in Nature
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