Scientists have discovered the secret of protecting tardigrades from complete drying out

(ORDO NEWS) — Biologists have shown in action the work of “glazing” proteins that protect the cells of tardigrades with a complete lack of water. In the future, they may be used to preserve living tissues and organs before transplantation.

Tiny relatives of arthropods – tardigrades – are able to survive in the most extreme conditions. They withstand an hour in boiling water, radiation and pressure are thousands of times higher than lethal for humans, they remain in the vacuum of space even after being fired from a cannon, and in the absence of water they simply fall into suspended animation and are ready to wait so for many decades.

Biologists are very interested in these “superpowers” of tardigrades. They have already uncovered many interesting defense mechanisms, such as molecules that protect DNA from radiation and fluorescent proteins against ultraviolet radiation.

The new work of scientists from the University of Tokyo is dedicated to the survival of tardigrades during complete drying. An article by Takekazu Kunieda and his co-authors was published in the journal PLOS Biology.

The cells of ordinary animals do not tolerate drying out, and when water leaves them, they lose their integrity and collapse. However, in tardigrades, they are able to produce unique molecules that support cells even in such conditions – CAHS (Cytoplasmic-Abundant Heat Soluble) proteins.

As long as there is water in the cell, CAHS remain dissolved and disordered. But as soon as there is not enough moisture, they “glaze”, connecting with each other and forming something like a framework that preserves cellular structures.

And when the water begins to flow again, the CAHS proteins dissolve again, allowing the cell to resume work.

This mechanism was first discovered several years ago, and now Japanese scientists have found more than 330 proteins in tardigrades that protect against drying out.

Experiments with animal cells have confirmed that without water, these molecules form a strong network that breaks down when there is enough moisture.

The same happens with individual CAHS proteins isolated from cells. The scientists were able to show this by visualizing the molecules using fluorescent labels.

In addition, biologists conducted experiments with insect and human cell cultures, artificially introducing these proteins into them. Here CAHS worked noticeably worse, but still provided some protection against drying out.

The authors hope that in the future this will make it possible to create new methods for preserving living tissues and organs for transplantation, and possibly even whole organisms that can endure extreme conditions as well as the tardigrades themselves.

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