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Scientists Float Ideas For Alzheimer’s In A Tiny Sea Creature

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Aired 3/8/10

The search for a cure for Alzheimer's disease has led San Diego researchers to a humble marine creature called the sea squirt.

SDSU researchers say the sea squirt, pictured above, is a potential new resource for drug development for Alzheimer's disease. .

Above: SDSU researchers say the sea squirt, pictured above, is a potential new resource for drug development for Alzheimer's disease. .

— The search for a cure for Alzheimer's disease has led San Diego researchers to a humble marine creature called the sea squirt.

You may not think you have much in common with the sea squirt, a tiny invertebrate that grows on boat hulls and dock pilings, but biology professor Bob Zeller says sea squirts and humans share a protein which leads to the development of plaques, the brain irregularities that are linked to Alzheimer's disease.

Zeller says his lab has been able to produce plaques in sea squirts in just 24 hours.

"We've now got a new animal model for looking at the development of plaques as well as effects on simple behaviors," he said.

Zeller said one of his graduate students also tested an experimental drug, which dramatically reduced the plaques in sea squirt larvae. He says testing drugs in a living organism is always superior to testing them on cell cultures in a petri dish.

He adds that any Alzheimer's drug would ultimately have to be tested on humans.

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