A new database of genes from the bottlenose dolphin may unveil new clues to treat diseases, such as stroke and kidney failure in humans, say scientists who have mapped all the proteins found in the marine mammal. Researchers, including those from National Institute of Standards and Technology in the US, have just finished creating a detailed, searchable index of all the proteins found in the bottlenose dolphin genome. A genome is the complete set of genetic material present in an organism. The project is built on years of marine mammal research and aims to provide a new level of bioanalytical measurements. Comparing the proteins of humans and these other mammals is already providing researchers with a wealth of new information about how the human body works. “Dolphins and humans are very, very similar creatures,” said Ben Neely from NIST.
“As mammals, we share a number of proteins and our bodies function in many similar ways, even though we are terrestrial and dolphins live in the water all their lives,” said Neely. Studies have recently revealed that lesser-known proteins in the blood of marine mammals may be playing a big role in the dives by protecting bottlenose dolphins’ kidneys and hearts from damage when blood flow and oxygen flow start and stop repeatedly during those underwater forays. One such protein is known as vanin-1. Humans produce vanin-1, but in much smaller amounts. Researchers are planning to gather more information on whether or not elevating levels of vanin-1 may offer protection to kidneys. “There’s this gap in the knowledge about genes and the proteins they make. We are missing a huge piece of the puzzle in how these animals do what they do,” said Mike Janech of Medical University of South Carolina in the US. “Genes carry the information of life, but proteins execute the functions,” he added. Vanin-1 is just one example of how genomic information about this mammalian cousin might prove useful.

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