TechUnlocking tardigrades survival secret, a breakthrough for stabilizing life-saving drugs

Unlocking tardigrades survival secret, a breakthrough for stabilizing life-saving drugs

Tardigrades can survive even in extreme conditions.
Tardigrades can survive even in extreme conditions.
Images source: © Wikimedia Commons

3:57 PM EST, January 16, 2024

The seemingly unexceptional tardigrades, also known as water bears, continue to astonish scientists worldwide with their robustness. Regarded as one of the most resilient species on Earth, they have demonstrated survival abilities under severe conditions, including extreme temperatures, large doses of ionizing radiation, massive static pressures, and high chemical compound concentrations, as numerous experiments have corroborated.

Tardigrades' resilience could contribute to saving human lives

In 2019, for instance, these small invertebrates were included in the "Cell Science-04" experiment aboard the International Space Station (ISS), testing how their genetic material would change over time in space. In 2021, the Centre for Planetary and Astrophysics Sciences at Kent University conducted an experiment that involved firing tardigrades at high speeds from a gun to examine their resilience to dynamic hydrostatic pressure.

More recent research led by the University of Wyoming has further investigated the tardigrades' survival abilities in extreme conditions. The focus was on their mechanism of anhydrobiosis - a reversible, temporary state where tardigrades decrease their metabolic activity due to adverse environmental conditions; in this case, extreme desiccation. The findings from these studies have initiated the development of dry storage technologies for pharmaceuticals.

Phys reports that during the study, Thomas Boothby and his team established that both natural and engineered versions of tardigrade proteins could be utilized to stabilize biologically-based drugs. They particularly highlighted pharmaceuticals that need stable, low-temperature storage, specifically drugs containing the human blood clotting factor VIII. This factor plays a vital role in treating conditions such as hemophilia, severe bleeding, and various genetic disorders. However, it has a significant instability issue that, without proper stabilization at specific temperatures, leads to its decomposition.

The researchers believe their discoveries could also be useful for other biological drugs. These could include pharmaceuticals containing living organisms or those derived from them, such as vaccines, antibodies, and blood products. The scientists hope their simple, convenient, and cost-effective method for stabilizing essential medicines could benefit global health initiatives, especially in remote or developing regions, during natural disasters, space missions, or even on battlefields.

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