Scientists have found the roots of the immortality of jellyfish

(ORDO NEWS) — A group of researchers from Spain seem to have finally found an explanation for the biological immortality of the Turritopsis dohrnii jellyfish.

By studying their complete genome for the first time and comparing it with related mortal species, scientists have figured out how this jellyfish manages to become a “young” version of itself again and again.

The results of the study can be useful in studying the mechanisms of aging and the possibility of prolonging human life.

Turritopsis dohrnii is the only multicellular animal theoretically capable of achieving biological immortality, due to the fact that it can reverse its life cycle, and therefore reverse aging.

Like many representatives of hydroid (aquatic invertebrates, one day turning into a jellyfish), T. dohrnii begins life from the stage of a free-floating larva (planula) in the water – an egg fertilized right in the sea.

At some point, having settled to the bottom, the larvae repeatedly clone themselves, forming a colony of polyps.

When the colony matures, new jellyfish “hatch out” from the polyps, maturing in a few weeks. This is where the life cycle of many representatives of the hydroids ends, but T. dohrnii has found an opportunity to reverse the maturation by returning to the planula stage.

In the event of an unfavorable situation (a sharp change in temperature or salinity, starvation, damage to the body), this type of jellyfish can restart the life cycle at any time, forming a polyp and creating its new clones.

Scientists have found the roots of the immortality of jellyfish 2
Life cycles of two studied species of jellyfish of the genus Turritopsis

In an attempt to elucidate the biological mechanisms underlying the unique ability to immortality, a group of scientists from the University of Oviedo (Spain) conducted a whole genome sequencing of T. dohrnii and its related, but not immortal, species Turritopsis rubra.

Scientists have found the roots of the immortality of jellyfish 3
Comparison of genes with altered sequence (marked ^) or copy number (marked *) associated with aging in representatives of the genus Turritopsis and other organisms

So, scientists found in T. dohrnii several times more copies of genes for enzymes responsible for repairing damage and copying DNA, maintaining the length of telomeres (the shortening of which is associated with aging).

In addition, in the immortal jellyfish, the number or sequences of genes associated with the maintenance of homeostasis, intercellular communication, regulation of oxidative stress, and stem cell functions are greatly increased or altered.

The genetic changes discovered by scientists allow T. dohrnii to reduce the negative effects of aging, regulate cell cycles, and maintain a supply of stem cells.

This type of jellyfish can also control the mechanisms of cellular reprogramming, restoring pluripotency to already differentiated cells, a property of stem cells that allows them to become any cell in the body.

The authors of the study hope that their results will help in studying the mechanisms of aging and the possibility of extending human life.


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