The Marine Biological Laboratory

Most of our current understanding of the basic mechanisms of biology is based on just a handful of laboratory species that inhabit a small part of our planet. Yet a vast diversity of life lies waiting to be understood. Many species can regenerate tissues, and even whole limbs, while others exhibit novel mechanisms of reproduction, genetics, healing, and behavior.

The University of Chicago–affiliated Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, is seeking to expand the repertoire of research models by developing new animal models that will address the fundamental questions in life science and biomedical research not readily accessible in the few organisms currently used in research.

Today, biology and biomedicine are fixed to genes and their function. To study biology at the highest levels we must be able to manipulate gene function and see the outcome. The University of Chicago Campaign: Inquiry and Impact has enabled the expansion of the MBL’s research organisms initiative, in particular a groundbreaking effort to culture cephalopods (squids, octopuses, and cuttlefish) in the laboratory—allowing for the creation of new genetically tractable research organisms.

Fueled by the work made possible by the campaign, the MBL’s research organisms initiative is now entering a new phase that will build on the successes of the cephalopod effort and expand the breadth of organisms cultured and studied. This research will deepen our understanding of numerous biological functions and even define new fields of study, accelerating discovery across a wide range of biological fields.