Map of sea urchin genome is drawn

From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Researchers have mapped the genome of the California purple sea urchin, a development that could advance genetic research into human diseases, according to a report published Friday in the journal Science.

Sea urchins are popular research animals because they are easy to manipulate genetically and share 70% of their genes and proteins with humans, including those associated with muscular dystrophy and Huntington’s disease, according to the study. Urchins also have genes for taste, smell, hearing, balance and sight similar to those in humans. Urchins have a highly developed immune system, can live more than 100 years and never get cancer.