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September 28, 2006

Sea Urchin Scientists Convene in Woods Hole

Organism is important model system for understanding human biology and disease

MBL, WOODS HOLE, MA—Scientists are gathering this week at the MBL (Marine Biological Laboratory), an international biological research center on Cape Cod, for The Developmental Biology of the Sea Urchin meeting, an annual event that brings together the top researchers, postdocs, and graduate students who study the basic biology of sea urchins.

The sea urchin has been an important model system, particularly in the study of developmental biology, for more than a century. Sea urchin eggs are transparent, fertilize easily, and develop rapidly and synchronously.  They can be manipulated easily in the laboratory. Sea urchins are an ideal organism for learning how pathways of genes and proteins regulate growth and development, which has profound implications for understanding human biology and diseases such as cancer.

More than 100 scientists from Europe, South America, and Asia are participating in this week’s meeting, which takes place through Saturday. Researchers will present data on the developmental biology, cell biology, molecular biology, gene regulation, and evolutionary biology of the organism, as well as results from the ongoing, multi-institutional sea urchin genome project.

The MBL is a natural location for this kind of gathering. Over the years, many of the scientists who travel to the MBL to do research during the summer months study the biology of sea urchins. In fact, MBL Corporation member Tim Hunt used sea urchins as a biological model for the work that garnered him a Nobel Prize in 2001 for his discovery of cyclins, a group of proteins that regulate the cell division cycle,


The MBL is an international, independent, nonprofit institution dedicated to improving the human condition through creative research and education in the biological, biomedical and environmental sciences. Founded in 1888 as the Marine Biological Laboratory, the MBL is the oldest private marine laboratory in the Western Hemisphere. For more information or to join the MBL Associates, visit www.MBL.edu