"Aliens of the sea," also known as comb jellies, are able to regrow body parts even if they are chopped into several pieces. The species is even able to regrow a simple brain under the right conditions. Body parts usually grow back in a few hours and brains take several days to form. This remarkable ability has made them of interest to scientists. 

Leonid Moroz of the University of Florida is studying the animals at a custom-built floating laboratory, where he maps the genetic codes of life in the waters. The researcher is able to carry this out in real time, inside a mobile lab that can be carried on any ship used to capture the marine animals. 

Investigators inside a large steel container are able to place the animals on a table designed to stay stable in rough seas. Then, they use cutting-edge technology to quickly decode the DNA code of the subject. This information is then relayed, in real time, to team members at the university. Analysis of the raw data takes place at the school and sent back to the ship. Crew members sequenced the DNA of 22 animals.

This is the first time sequencing at sea has taken place, which could allow biologists to map genetic codes for these additional species. 

"It is possible now to get the genomic blueprint of all animals in the sea. The real success of these two proof-of-concept trips is that we now know we can do high-throughput sequencing at any location on Earth," Moroz said

Genetic maps have not yet back recorded for many forms of sea life, because the code for these animals is too fragile to survive a trip back to land after capture. When samples could be returned to laboratories, sequencing took several days to complete. 

Half of all modern medicines were developed from natural sources and estimates of the number of compounds remaining to be found in the ocean between 14 and 20 million. One species on Earth is going extinct every six hours, researchers said. 

"If you cannot bring the creatures to the lab, why not bring the lab to the sea?" Moroz asked in a press release from the university, announcing the study. 

The Human Genome Project, launched in 1990, finished mapping the human genome for the first time eleven years later. Hundreds of sequencing machines were required to complete the $3.5 billion project. Today, a person can have their personal genome mapped in just a couple days, for around $1,000. 

This new development could signal the next revolution in genetic mapping. 

ⓒ 2021 TECHTIMES.com All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.