hermit crabHow can the fuzz that grows on the shells of hermit crabs have any relationship to human health? Well, the HudsonAlpha Genome Sequencing Center recently generated the finished genomic sequence for research conducted by Yale scientists studying Hydractinia symbiolongicarpus (the distinctive white fuzz growing on the top of hermit crab shells). The Yale scientists subsequently identified a candidate allorecognition gene that could eventually lead to better understanding of the human immune system. Allorecognition is the ability of an individual organism to distinguish its own tissues from those of another.

Hydractinia have become a model for scientific exploration of allorecognition phenomena, or so-called fight or fuse responses. These interactions in nature resemble those that occur in mammalian pregnancy and following organ transplantation.

The HudsonAlpha Genome Sequencing Center is part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Joint Genome Institute. This sequencing project is part of JGI’s Community Sequencing Program (CSP). The CSP was created to provide the scientific community at large with access to high-throughput sequencing for projects relevant to DOE missions. Through this program, the DOE aims to advance sequence-based scientific research from a broad range of disciplines.