This jellyfish can optionally press a “repeat” button and thereby reverse the aging process as soon as it senses the threat of predation, injury or even starvation. Thus, it passes indifferently from the larval stage to the polyp stage. These incredible regenerative abilities make him “immortal”. Scientists have discovered how Turritopsis dohrnii can escape death.
The quest for immortality has driven much of human history. The search for the elixir of youth is the subject of the most remarkable legends and tales. Medieval alchemists worked tirelessly to find the formula for the Philosopher’s Stone, which would confer rejuvenating powers. Also famous is the journey of Juan Ponce de Leon, who desperately sought the mysterious fountain of youth while conquering the New World.
Until recently, no one managed to unlock the secret of eternal life. But the discovery of a creature no larger than four millimeters in size, Turritopsis dohrniiAlso called “The Immortal Medusa”, is a game changer.
Biological immortality within the reach of Medusa
Unlike the vast majority of living things, Turritopsis dohrnii Can rejuvenate and achieve biological immortality. Clearly, this jellyfish poses a threat to our perception of aging. But how does he get there?
Let’s start by understanding what the life cycle of a “deadly jellyfish” looks like. Its reproduction is sexual: the male’s sperm fertilizes the female’s eggs, and then a zygote is formed. The zygote transforms into a larva and drifts until it attaches to the seabed, once established it transforms into a polyp and when ready reproduces asexually. For this, it releases tiny jellyfish from its body, which develop into adults and multiply, then die.
Immortal Medusa Turritopsis dohrnii also follows this cycle, but after reproduction it does not always die: it can choose another path and change its life cycle. Its jellyfish body then shrinks and becomes a kind of sphere called a “cyst”. It moves until it sinks to the bottom, then produces a new polyp that spawns new jellyfish, thus entering the cycle again.
This process can happen over and over and allows the medusa to escape death.
Decoding the Immortal Medusa Genome
The keys to immortality Turritopsis dohrnii written into his DNA, but they were not easy to detect. Our research team, led by Carlos López Otín from the University of Oviedo, helped decipher the genome of this immortal jellyfish. The results are published in the journal at the end of August PNAS. How? Reading letter-by-letter and writing gene-by-gene his entire DNA as if it were a big instruction book.
This excellent book contains all the information that allows cells to perform their vital functions. Thus, several genomic aspects have been identified that contribute to the understanding of the extraordinary vitality of immortal jellyfish.
Using various bioinformatics tools and comparative genomics (comparing the gene books of some species to others), it was found that Turritopsis dohrnii It possesses a series of genetic variations that contribute to its biological plasticity and longevity.
The genes found are related to various keys to aging, such as DNA repair and replication, renewal of the stem cell population, intercellular communication and reduction of the oxidative cellular environment that damages cells, as well as maintenance of telomeres (the ends of chromosomes). .
All of these processes are associated with longevity and healthy aging in humans.
A detailed study of each stage of the rejuvenation of this jellyfish made it possible to identify a series of changes in the expression of genes necessary for the transformation of the cells: a process known as dedifferentiation. This allows A biological time jump from Turritopsis dohrnii.
All the discovered mechanisms will act synergistically as an orchestra to ensure the rejuvenation of the immortal jellyfish.
The real secret of immortality
There is no life without death. Any system, like humanity or our body, needs some part of it to die to maintain balance and survive.
Thanks to fascinating time travel Turritopsis dohrnii, we have learned the keys and limits of cellular plasticity. From this knowledge, we hope to find better answers to the many age-related diseases that plague us today.
Achieving biological immortality in humans remains only a dream.
But the individual has long since discovered how to remain immortal: to contribute to history through art and knowledge.