TechUnlocking the secrets of tardigrades: Could human cells mimic their resilience?

Unlocking the secrets of tardigrades: Could human cells mimic their resilience?

Tardigrade - an earthly organism, which can survive in outer space.
Tardigrade - an earthly organism, which can survive in outer space.
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9:55 AM EDT, March 30, 2024

Tardigrades, often hailed as some of Earth's most resilient inhabitants, have yet again sparked the curiosity of scientists. In a novel experiment, researchers from the University of Wyoming infused human cells with tardigrade proteins to observe the outcome. Their findings were published in "Protein Science".
Known colloquially as water bears, tardigrades are minuscule invertebrates renowned for their ability to endure extremely harsh conditions. Previous studies have highlighted their capacity to withstand temperatures as high as 302 degrees Fahrenheit, pressures over 87,022.6 psi, decades of dehydration, and harmful chemical concentrations fatal to most other life forms. Remarkably, they can even survive the vacuum of outer space.
### Tardigrades captivate researchers
In this recent investigation, scientists discovered that introducing crucial proteins from tardigrades into human cells could slow down the cells' metabolism. As reported by Science Alert, this finding sheds light on the mechanisms behind the tardigrades' extraordinary survival capabilities under dire conditions. The research primarily focused on the CAHS D protein, known for its protective role against severe dehydration. Under stress, the protein morphs into a gel-like state, safeguarding the organism's molecules.
The implications of these findings are significant. Researchers envisage the potential development of technologies aimed at inducing biostasis - the halting of bodily chemical reactions. Such innovations could be pivotal in slowing the aging process, enhancing the preservation and stability of cells, and even whole organisms. In addition to this remarkable capability, tardigrades employ other survival strategies, such as anhydrobiosis, a reversible state where they minimize bodily functions to withstand adverse environments.
Nonetheless, translating the incredible resilience of tardigrades to human biology will require further extensive research. Despite the hurdles, experts believe that this unique trait could revolutionize the way we approach aging, and significantly improve methods for the safe storage of cells at low temperatures, which is crucial for medical procedures like organ transplants.
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