Why not? Scientists at the Marina Biology Laboratory (MBL) asked themselves this. They set out to delete genes in a cephalopod. What uses could it have? They are diverse. For example in biology, but also in robotics and artificial intelligence. Transparent squids produced in the laboratory are the beginning of a series of future experiments.
The results were published in “Current Biology”. The CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing tool was used. They tried to suppress a pigmentation gene in squid embryos. And this removed the pigmentation in eyes and skin cells (chromatophores) with high efficiency. The result? Transparent squid. Did someone say camouflage?
This is a critical first step. We have the ability to kill genes in cephalopods. It enables us to answer a number of biological questions, ”Joshua Rosenthal said in a statement. He is a senior scientist at MBL. And also the main author of the work.
Cephalopods (squid, squid and squid) have the largest brain of all invertebrates. Thus, they have an expanded nervous system that can cause instant camouflage. And they use their ability to comprehensively recode their own genetic information in messenger RNA, for example. These animals open up many opportunities for new studies. Medicine, robotics, materials science and artificial intelligence could use these results. Maybe transparent robots?
The ability to remove a gene in order to test its function is an important step. It suggests cephalopods as genetically treatable organisms for biological research. The species that now dominate this field are fruit flies, zebrafish, and mice. The study is a necessary step in generating genes that will facilitate research. For example, those that encode fluorescent proteins to track neuronal activity or other dynamic processes.
“CRISPR-Cas9 worked very well with the Doryteuthis. It was surprisingly efficient, ”says Rosenthal. However, it was much more difficult to get the system into the unicellular squid embryo. It is surrounded by an extremely resistant outer layer. The team developed micro scissors to cut the surface of the egg. With a beveled quartz needle, they used the CRISPR-Cas9 reagents.
Cephalopod studies have previously led to fundamental advances in neurobiology. For example the description of the action potential (nerve impulse) in the 1950s. It was a discovery made by Alan Hodgkin and Andrew Huxley. You won the Nobel Prize in 1963.
Rosenthal and colleagues recently discovered extensive recoding of mRNA in the nervous system of Doryteuthis and other cephalopods. This research is under development for potential biomedical applications. Pain control therapy is one of them.
The next step is to transfer the new removal technology to a smaller cephalopod type. Euprymna berryi. It’s called hummingbird squid. It is relatively easy to breed to produce genetic strains. Clear squid made in the laboratory can reproduce quickly.
The MBL Cephalopod program is part of the MBL New Organisms Research Initiative. The aim is to expand the range of genetically manageable organisms. We are expanding the universe of biological questions that can be asked. Hopefully the answers to this challenge will increase. And may scientific curiosity continue to find its way.