Jason Manley, 2017, Physics

The Molecular Discovery Lab at Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences (BIOS) uses the sea urchin to study the processes of aging and cancer, since sea urchins do not appear to show any signs of deteriorative aging or development of cancers. My project branched off this to look at their remarkable regenerative capacity, which is critical for maintenance of tissues over their long life span. I used a novel regeneration assay developed in the lab that uses photography and image analysis to measure percent regeneration of external appendages (spines and tube feet). By using this assay in the presence of inhibitors of specific molecular pathways, we were able to identify mechanisms that play a role in tissue regeneration. In addition, I used molecular techniques (e.g., quantitative polymerase chain reaction) to measure the expression of stem cell and cell proliferation markers. Although stem cells are controversial in echinoderms, our lab hypothesizes that they are critical for the processes of tissue regeneration and my early results indicate their presence. This project taught me about a lot of critical laboratory skills, experimental design, technical writing, and problem-solving when things didn’t go so well. I really enjoyed working in the lab and look forward to pursuing more research opportunities at Princeton.