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Tardigrades. Scientific research. Why are tardigrades so indestructible?

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Scientists have long been puzzled by how conditions that are deadly to most other organisms are not terrible for tardigrades, tiny invertebrates. For example, they can survive for many years without water. Researchers from Marshall University, West Virginia (USA) claim that they have just found the answer to this question.

Tardigrades, microscopic invertebrates with eight legs, are famous for their resistance to extreme conditions. In a state of dormancy (anabiosis), they can survive temperatures from close to absolute zero to over 150 degrees Celsius, they can withstand ionizing radiation 1,000 times stronger than any other animal, pressure of 6,000 atmospheres, they are able to survive over 100 years without water, and even stay in space .

Scientists from Marshall University of West Virginia (USA) claim that thanks to the experiments they conducted, they have solved the mystery of why tardigrades owe their extraordinary ability to survive in extremely unfavorable conditions.

Cysteine ​​as a stress sensor

Derrick Kolling’s team and his colleagues exposed tardigrades to high levels of hydrogen peroxide, sugar, salt and a temperature of -80 degrees Celsius. As a result of these extreme experiments, harmful, very reactive molecules – free oxygen radicals – appeared in the animals’ bodies.

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As it turned out, free radicals react with other molecules, in particular they oxidize an amino acid called cysteine ​​- one of the building blocks of proteins in the body. This leads to a change in the structure and function of proteins, signaling the onset of the dormant state.

In experiments in which cysteine ​​oxidation was prevented, tardigrades were unable to enter a dormant state. According to the study authors, this means that cysteine ​​acts as a kind of regulatory sensor that allows tardigrades to respond to stress. When conditions improve, cysteine ​​is no longer oxidized and the tardigrades emerge from dormancy.

Tardigrade (illustrative photo)Shutterstock

According to the authors, further research into the defense mechanisms of tardigrades may lead to progress in research on the aging process and even facilitate long-term space travel. The study was published on January 17 in the journal “PLOS ONE”.

Main photo source: Shutterstock

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