DiscoveryThe immortal jellyfish that could help us age better
This animal is literally able to rejuvenate. Researchers have identified the genes that allow this, opening up prospects for human regenerative medicine.
A jellyfish Turritopsis dohrnii is an extraordinary animal. He is indeed biologically immortal. He is able to do what Brad Pitt does in the movie “Benjamin Button”: rejuvenate. This jellyfish starts out as a tiny polyp that grows into a jellyfish. But this species is able to reverse the process and become a polyp again.
All the structures that made it up then disappear into an opaque mass before becoming a jellyfish again, as researchers explain in the journal PNAS. To understand how it is able to do this, these Spanish scientists studied the genetic differences between this species and the Turritopsis rubra who is not getting any younger.
It stops its development
They discovered that the immortelle had twice as many protective and repairing genes in its DNA, which allows it to slow down its cellular deterioration. They then found that the rejuvenation process was due to a genetic modification that allows developmental genes to be silenced. Jellyfish can thus bring their cells back to a primordial stage and then reactivate these nascent cells and respecialize them.
These animals do this when injured or when their environment deteriorates, in order to restart their lives later. These jellyfish, however, have predators, which therefore does not make them entirely immortal.
According to Maria Pascual Torner, lead author of the study, the genes her team has identified could be relevant for use in human regenerative medicine and provide insight into age-related diseases or cancer. “The next step is to explore these genetic variants in mice or humans,” she says in NewScientist.