The tardigrade, or water bear, has been known to endure the extremes -- and it might help humans do the same.
It’s been called the world’s “hardiest animal” — it can survive just about anything, from extreme cold to extreme heat. And now scientists think they have discovered its secret.
Scientists have identified a gene in these microscopic aquatic animals called tardigrades, or water bears, that helps it survive just about anything, and it could have major implications for mankind. Specifically, scientists think the information could be used to protect human cells, according to the paper, which was published in the journal Nature.
A team from the University of Tokyo was able to find a protein that protects its DNA like a protective blanket. If scientists could figure out how to grow human cells with that same protein, those cells could also be similarly protected.
These genes could one day be used to protect us from the sun’s radiation, for example.
Basically, tardigrades have evolved numerous strategies to handle the stressful conditions in which they’re forced to survive, and this protein is a major contributor to that. Research into these little critters could also tell us about alien life on other planets, as well as improve our own medicine and genetics.
The statement adds: “Tardigrades, also known as water bears, are small aquatic animals. Some tardigrade species tolerate almost complete dehydration and exhibit extraordinary tolerance to various physical extremes in the dehydrated state. Here we determine a high-quality genome sequence of Ramazzottius varieornatus, one of the most stress-tolerant tardigrade species. Precise gene repertoire analyses reveal the presence of a small proportion (1.2% or less) of putative foreign genes, loss of gene pathways that promote stress damage, expansion of gene families related to ameliorating damage, and evolution and high expression of novel tardigrade-unique proteins.”
You can find the paper here. A video describing the water bear and how it can improve science is below: