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About the series: Ask a Scientist is an informative, entertaining, casual science lecture series, held at a San Francisco cafe. Each event features a speaker on a current topic, a short presentation, and the opportunity to ask all those burning questions that have been keeping you up at night. No tests, grades, or pressure…just food, drinks, socializing, and conversation about the universe’s most fascinating mysteries.

This month's topic: The sea urchin, a spiny little marine critter that looks far more like a plant than a person, has been a jackpot of biomedical insights for over 100 years. In the late 19th century, sea urchins provided researchers with their first glimpse of the fusion of sperm and egg nuclei. Their embryos, which develop rapidly and are easy to observe and manipulate, are providing today's biologists with insights into genetic diseases, cancers, and stem cells. Adding to its value as an interesting research subject, the sea urchin has a surprisingly advanced immune system totally unlike anything seen before. And certain species can live more than 200 years without showing much wear from aging. But biomedical researchers are not the only scientists interested in the sea urchin -- its recently sequenced genome yields some tantalizing clues to the mysteries of evolution as well. What is a creature that has no eyes, nose, or centralized brain for dealing with visual or olfactory signals doing with almost 1000 genes for proteins designed to sense light and odors? Darn good question. Let's ask Fred Wilt.

Official Website: http://www.askascientistSF.com

Added by fourquarts on June 21, 2007