A tiny jellyfish holds the secret to immortality, and geneticists affiliated with the University of Oviedo, Spain are studying the species to understand the aging process and therefore evaluate if it is possible to evade it.
“We have identified variants and expansions of genes associated with replication, DNA repair, telomere maintenance, redox environment, stem cell population, and intercellular communication,” explains Dr Maria Pascual-Torner, co-author of the study.
Three species of the hydra jellyfish are able to age backward: two of them can rejuvenate from adolescence backward, but sexual reproduction would lock them into adulthood. As for Turritopsis dohrnii, it is the only one capable of rejuvenating repeatedly – or going through life cycle reversal – and endlessly. The study compares T. dohrnii with its close relative, T. rubra, and it was found that T. dohrnii’s genome contains two aspects the other one doesn’t have during life cycle reversal: one which silences the polycomb repressive complexes – two families of proteins capable of regulating gene expression – and another one which activates pluripotency – the capacity a stem cell has to turn into any cell it needs to become. It means that technically, it is capable of eternal life.