This tiny jellyfish hid the secret of “immortality”. Asturian researchers have revealed

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The Turritopsis dohrnii It measures only a few millimeters and is one of the few known animals capable of turning back time and rejuvenating itself. That is why these little critters that live in some areas of the Mediterranean and the Sea of ​​Japan are known as immortal jellyfish. Now, the University of Oviedo has managed to decipher in their genome how they can extend their longevity to the point of avoiding their death


The circle of life. We are born, we grow, we reproduce and we die, right? Those are essentially the basic phases of the life cycle of living things. Those are essentially the basic phases that the T. dohrnii has learned to ‘hack’. This jellyfish has the ability to be born, grow, reproduce and decrease; to grow again, to reproduce and to decrease; and so on until a predator or disease kills it.

That is, the T. dohrnii it can reverse its life cycle to an earlier asexual stage called a polyp. That makes this jellyfish a really interesting field of study. Not so much because we can use what we learn from it on ourselves, but because its study can open us to solutions that until now we had not even been able to imagine. Researchers at the University of Oviedo know this and for this reason they got down to work sequencing the genome.

Death is the price we pay for being who we are: the science of the quest for immortality

The key is in the genome. In recent years, the available bioinformatic tools have revolutionized comparative genomics. Thanks to this revolution, Asturian scientists They have gotten identify the amplified genes (or with characteristic variants) that allow the immortal jellyfish to reverse traditional ontogenetic development.

Most of them are genes associated “with DNA replication and repair, telomere maintenance, renewal of the stem cell population, intercellular communication, and reduction of the oxidative cellular environment.” In other words, at first they only serve to confirm things that we already knew: that all these processes are clearly associated “with longevity and healthy aging”.

Photo 2 Turritopsis Diagram 002

Oviedo University

Clock do not mark the hours. The most interesting, however, is the exhaustive study of the changes in gene expression during the rejuvenation process. Thanks to him, researchers have discovered signs gene silencing mediated by the so-called “Polycomb” pathway and increased expression of genes related to the cell pluripotency pathway.

Namely, ways have been found by which specialized cells can dedifferentiate, “turn back” and be able to become any type of cell. The discovery is fantastic because it makes it clear that these two biochemical pathways are essential in the cyclical rejuvenation of the jellyfish. It is a key step in our understanding of these extremely rare processes.

Still far from immortality. However, it also makes it clear that as I said researcher Maria Pascual-Torner, rather than having a single key to rejuvenation and immortality, “the various mechanisms found in our work would act synergistically as a whole, thus orchestrating the process to ensure the success of rejuvenation of the immortal jellyfish.” In other words, we cannot use an isolated mechanism; that much remains to be investigated.

Image | SYNC

The Turritopsis dohrnii It measures only a few millimeters and is one of the few known animals capable of turning…

The Turritopsis dohrnii It measures only a few millimeters and is one of the few known animals capable of turning…

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