The animalcules revealed another superpower

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2017-03-19 07:30:09

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The animalcules revealed another superpower

Six animals in a state of dehydration. In this state, they pull their legs and head inside the protective sheath, forming a kind of cocoon

The Tiny living creatures, tardigrades, have a set of amazing properties. They easily tolerate radiation, temperature ranging from +150 degrees Celsius to almost absolute zero, and the pressure is six times superior to the pressure in the deepest ocean troughs. And this kit added another superhero ability.

Researchers from the University of North Carolina (USA) found the animalcules unique set of proteins (TDP), which allow these creatures under conditions of dehydration, to turn parts of their bodies in a glassy substance that protects their cells from damage. According to researchers, we could borrow this ability and apply it in various fields, ranging from agriculture to medicine. The latest research findings were published in the journal Molecular Cell.

Belonging to the class of "extremophiles" tardigrades amaze scientists with their level of survivability for more than 200 years. These ancient and amazingly fun to view microscopic organisms able to survive in the harsh natural conditions, which creates for the scientists so much interest in their direction.

One of the latest research conducted by Japanese scientists has shown that genes of animals "proprietary", that is, these animals have developed over the course of the evolution only their own forces and not "steal" their protective functions in other organisms (this evolutionary process is called horizontal gene transfer). Due to this, tardigrades have the genes and characteristics that are not inherent in any other organism in the animal Kingdom.

A total of science has more than 1000 thousand species of animalcules, the majority of which spend their lives crawling through wet leaves, moss or floating in the oceans. Their desire for travel often leads to problems, so for a long period of its existence (scientists believe that tardigrades appeared on Earth about 600 million years ago), they were able to develop a set of protective tools to keep your life. As mentioned above, tardigrades without any problems can withstand extreme temperature, radiation, presence in the environment of outer space, and complete dehydration (complete lack of body fluids).

When tardigrades "dry", they pull their legs and head inside its rugged shell, folding into a ball, or rather forming a cocoon, and can be in this state for several tens of years, yet again, will not get access to water.

Other organisms such as yeast, shrimp, brine shrimp and nematodes, are used to compensate for the condition of dehydration disaccharide — trehalose. For many years, scientists believed that tardigrades use the same composition, but a series of biochemical tests showed that in their bodies either contains a very low concentration or completely absent trehalose. The absence of this component prompted the idea that tardigrades to survive in dry conditions using a different strategy. And Thomas Bambi with his team of scientists from the University of North Carolina were able to figure out what is their secret.

To answer this question, scientists decided to experiment and started to put the animals in a variety of stressful environments with low temperature and complete dehydration. In the experiment, it was found that in this case, in the body of the animalcules became very active a certain type of genes. The study led to the discovery of the gene which, during the dehydration causes the body of animals to develop a special type of protein (TDP). Unlike most other proteins, TDP does not have a fixed three-dimensional structure and under certain conditions takes the form of a protective glass-like structure. To check whether this protein is responsible for the protection of tardigrades during dehydration, the scientists put the gene responsible for its production, in other organisms.

"the presence of the TDP in order to protect the animals directly from dehydration, however, the experiment showed that the protein is able to increase resistance to dehydration and also in bacteria and yeast", — says the study's lead author Thomas Bambi.

"it's Amazing, but the effectiveness of TDP's proven and simple when you place it in a test tube with purified biological material seems to be sensitive to dehydration enzymes. The glass-like structure that creates a protein envelop is sensitive to the dehydration of the molecules and physically prevent them from decay, decomposition and fusion".

However, the most interesting aspect of this discovery, according to Bambi is that tardigrades without the body of trehalose, were able to develop an alternative solution to the problem of dehydration.

"In the dehydration of trehalose is able to form glassy solid structure that allows you to protect cells and their components", — he says. "We found that TDP proteins perform the same function, forming a solid glassy shell. This is a great example of convergent evolution, when nature has found a way to solve the same problems, but due to the two different methods, one using a disaccharide, and the other squirrels."

The Authors of recent research suggests that the potential application of this protein is seen in a variety of fields. For example, it would be possible to increase the level of resistance in cultivated, not able to withstand long periods of drought. Protein would have found its application in pharmaceutical production, allowing you to keep products in a "dried" state without the use of cooling systems.

High potential use, at least at the level of speculation, with cells of larger living creatures and perhaps even humans. However, the key phrase here is "while at the level of assumptions". And yet, the first evidence that the scientists have already received. that another protein of the animals can be placed in human cells and significantly increase their level of protection against radiation. Perhaps such a possibility exists and with the protein TDP, but it has yet to prove in the laboratory.

In the end, if this property is confirmed, then we get the ability at the genetic level to create animals and eventually even people — whose bodies will be fully ready to resist the extreme dry environment. May sound premature, but such genetic modification could much better prepare future colonists for life on Arrakis Mars, where water, as you know, is in strong deficit....

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