Invincible Water Bears: Tardigrades' DNA Key To Providing Answers [VIDEO]
A new study on water bears, tardigrades to the scientific community, has identified the key to unlocking their secret to their seemingly indestructible nature. The study points to the their DNA as responsible for the abilities of the organism to protect itself in extreme conditions.
Water bears can survive almost anywhere. They can multiply in outer space, and can endure temperatures from as high as 150 degrees Celsius, down to minus 200 degrees Celsius. They mostly survive by going into a "tun" or hibernation-like state, expelling water from their bodies and then pulling in their heads and legs into their bodies.
The tardigrade's super-ability to resist drying out was mistakenly attributed to a sugar, trehalose. This theory has now been debunked even if the sugar plays a key role in other animals' and plants' abilities to survive dry conditions, the Live Science reported. Other studies on water bears have pointed to the fact that the tiny animals do not possess the sugar at all.
This was reaffirmed by the new study on water bears. Tardigrades were dried out and then their genetic activity was investigated.
The results of this study indicated that certain genes were very active at this time and produced a unique protein now called tardigrade-specific intrinsically disordered protein (TDP). The TDP would then cause the organism to form a structure that helps cells preserve themselves even in a dried-out state.
The TDPs properties were also tested in other organisms, according to The Independent. The genes were inserted into yeast and bacteria. The yeast and bacteria then exhibited the same Lazarus-like abilities as the water bears as a result.
The study hopes that the tardigrades will be replicated for practical uses. This would be very helpful in protecting crops from extreme weather conditions and to preserve medicines even without refrigeration.
The study was conducted by a research team led by Dr. Thomas Boothby, a post-doctorate fellow at the University of North Carolina and was first published in the online scientific journal Molecular Cell.