Most of the current knowledge concerning fundamental genetic mechanisms, evolutionary processes and development, cellular physiology, and pathogenesis comes from studies of different animal model systems. Whereas mice, rats, and other small mammals are generally thought of as the typical model systems used by researchers in biomedical studies, aquatic models including both freshwater and marine organisms have long proved to be essential for the study of basic biological processes. For over a century, biologists have used the sea urchin embryo as a prototype for the investigation of developmental mechanisms that contribute to building the embryo body plan. Here we highlight the contribution of the sea urchin embryo as a simple model for studying aging and age-associated neurodegenerative diseases, as well as the pathways and mechanisms involved in cell survival and death. Moreover, we point out the role of this embryonic system as a potent and affordable tool for learning about developmental effects and toxicity responses to environmental contaminants and chemical compounds.
Part of the book: Sea Urchin