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Tal Zaquin

Middle East - An animal able to regenerate all of its organs even when it is dissected into three parts

A surprising discovery in the Gulf of Eilat

An extraordinary discovery in the Gulf of Eilat: Researchers from Tel Aviv University have discovered a species of ascidian, a marine animal commonly found in the Gulf of Eilat, capable of regenerating all of its organs - even if it is dissected into three fragments. The study was led by Prof. Noa Shenkar, Prof. Dorothee Huchon-Pupko, and Tal Gordon of Tel Aviv University's School of Zoology at the George S. Wise Faculty of Life Sciences and the Steinhardt Museum of Natural History. The findings of this surprising discovery were published in the leading journal Frontiers in Cell and Developmental Biology.

"It is an astounding discovery, as this is an animal that belongs to the Phylum Chordata - animals with a dorsal cord - which also includes us humans," explains Prof. Noa Shenkar. "The ability to regenerate organs is common in the animal kingdom, and even among chordates you can find animals that regenerate organs, like the gecko who is able to grow a new tail. But not entire body systems. Here we found a chordate that can regenerate all of its organs even if it is separated into three pieces, with each piece knowing exactly how to regain functioning of all its missing body systems within a short period of time."

There are hundreds of species of ascidians, and they are found in all of the world's oceans and seas. Anyone who has ever opened their eyes underwater has seen ascidians without knowing it, as they often camouflage themselves as lumps on rocks and are therefore difficult to discern. The animal that is the subject of this new study is an ascidian from the species Polycarpa mytiligera, which is very common in the coral reefs of Eilat.

"By all accounts, the ascidian is a simple organism, with two openings in its body: an entry and an exit," says Tal Gordon, whose doctoral dissertation included this new research. "Inside the body there is a central organ that resembles a pasta strainer. The ascidian sucks in water through the body's entry point, the strainer filters the food particles that remain in the body, and the clean water exits through the exit point. Among invertebrates, they are considered to be the closest to humans from an evolutionary point of view."

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