In an effort to understand what makes one species functionally eternal, researchers have just matched its DNA to that of its mortal relatives.
There is immortality, but you have to be a jellyfish, not a deity or a vampire, to obtain it. Additionally, Turritopsis dohrnii, a species of cnidarian, is the only one known to have discovered the key to eternal life. The DNA of T. dornii and its near relative, T. rubra, will be compared in an effort to better understand aging and how to avoid it.
Warm-water jellyfish measuring 0.5 centimeters (0.2 inches) in length are called turritopsis. At least three different species of hydra can age backwards, like Benjamin Button, moving from adult to juvenile stage before eventually maturing once again. However, two of them are trapped in maturity by sexual reproduction, like the victim in an unedited fairytale, and can only go from the hydra equivalent of a teenager to a toddler. Contrarily, T. dohrnii appears to be capable of repeatedly switching between its free-floating adult stage and a bottom-living polyp, a process known as life cycle reversal (LCR).
In an article published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, T. dorhnii and T. rubra are compared in the hopes that the differences may be instructive. A few more distantly related varieties of cnidarians are also included.
Dr. Maria Pascual-Torner and colleagues from the Universidad of Oviedo in Spain did not discover a single genetic cunning that seems to offer the spring of youth. We have detected variations and expansions of genes linked with replication, DNA repair, telomere maintenance, redox environment, stem cell population, and intercellular communication, the researchers reported. Instead, they found a wide array of probable causes.
All of these might eventually turn out to be significant, but the study focused on two crucial features of T. dohrnii’s genome that are missing from its related. The polycomb repressive complexes are silenced by one of these: 2 protein families control gene expression. The other stimulates pluripotency, a stem cell’s ability to differentiate into any type of cell necessary, during life cycle reversal.
If it’s even conceivable, adapting these to people will be a Herculean undertaking. Even though many of T. dorhnii’s traits presumably only function when combined, some of them might add a few valuable years to the lifespan of more complicated species, including us.
“Natural selection weakens with age,” the research states. Rarely, such as in the case of orca grandmothers, can living a long, healthy life after reproduction end provide anything in the way of evolutionary advantages. Nature hasn’t done anything to assure that it happens, so we’ll have to figure out how to make it happen on our own with only T. dorhnii as our guidance.
Even T. dohrnii has an expiration date. It is true that the average specimen lives much less than you do; this is the unfortunate result of being a little lifeform with few defenses and appetizing to larger jellyfish and fish. They haven’t taken over the planet, as we might expect an immortal species to, presumably because of this. But since it can regenerate, it theoretically has the ability to live forever—something that has only been suggested by one other species and never been proven.