Marine invertebrates have a long history of contribution to medical science. Nobel prizes have been awarded for understanding how nerves work (using squid giant axons) and the regulation of the cell cycle (using sea urchins). These invertebrates have also been the source of novel anticancer drugs, such as Yondelis and Cytarabine. However, they are massively under-exploited species.
One of the blocks to the use of these species more widely in both the medical and aquaculture research areas is the lack of cell culture. This would allow much easier manipulation of the cells under different conditions to isolate novel compounds and also to test responses to infection. The latter is particularly important in aquaculture as these cell cultures could then be used to test the efficiency of different drugs to overcome infection before being tested in the field, thus contributing to the 3Rs framework for animal research (Replacement, Reduction, Refinement).
Molluscs are one of the most successful marine phyla and comprise some of our most important commercial shellfish, such as blue mussels, oysters and scallops. Although cell culture is a cornerstone of biological investigation, particularly in the medical field, to date only one cell line (from embryonic cells of the freshwater snail Biompharalaria glabrata) has been achieved from this group.
This lack of access to cell culture represents a block towards exploitation of these species both for fundamental research, but also societal benefit. Marine invertebrates sequester huge amounts of carbon into shells and reefs, yet we still do not know how this is achieved (ref: CACHE project: www.cache-itn.eu ). They also purify aquatic environments and are an abundant food source. Blue biotechnology is a relatively new area, which is being increasingly promoted for the identification of novel compounds for societal benefit and molluscs are a key group for this initiative. This project will conduct pilot studies to develop reproducible tissue culture methods in three bivalve molluscs the Antarctic species Laternula elliptica and Aequiyoldia eightsii and the Pacific Oyster Crassostrea gigas.