Tardigrades are known for being among the most durable species of the Animalia Kingdom, and a recent investigation released by the University of Tokio and published by the Nature Journal showed one of a complete genome sequence of the species until now.
Tardigrades, also known as water bears, are almost microscopic animals that can be found on the water film that covers musk or leafs in forests (including tropical forests) or even in regions in the deep sea and the more than 800 species has been an interesting subject of research in different scientific fields.
Water bears can survive severe dehydration (up to years) and even the vacuum of space when in 2007 the European Space Agency sent thousands of tardigrades to space (The Tardis project) and the animals managed not only to survive but even to reproduce after the exposure to the vacuum of space. But this research discovered something particularly relevant in the animal’s genetic structure that makes them suitable to survive to massive doses of radiation.
But this new study found something particularly relevant in the animal’s genetic structure that makes them suitable to survive to massive doses of radiation.
Super powerful proteins
Apparently, the DNA of Tardigrades is composed of different elements that make these small beings strong, including a particular protein capable of protecting cells from radiation.
While sequencing the genome of the animal, researchers identified this protein covering the tardigrade’s surface almost like a blanket. This unique protein has never been detected before as a relevant component of the animal’s ability to survive extreme conditions.
This protein seems to not only protect the animal from radiation but also it may help the inner structures to recover from damage.
The most revealing part of this discovery is that the protein may even be capable of protecting human cells from radiation. Scientists exposed human cells to the protein and X-rays, and those covered with the protein responded better, with almost 40 percent less damage than those exposed to radiation without the presence of the protein.
This could mean a break thru for medicine investigation and biological research, so more research is needed to understand precisely the benefits of this particular protein.
The latest study on Tardigrade’s abilities
Scientists from the University of Tokio published this original investigation called “Extremotolerant tardigrade genome and improved radiotolerance of cultured human cells by tardigrade-unique protein” studied where they studied different species of tardigrades and made the sequence of the genome of a variety that has never been investigated before.
The DNA of the Ramazzottius varieornatus tardigrade revealed that this particular type of water bear is more able to survive extreme conditions than those studied before.
While most water bears studied so far proved to have a significantly mixed DNA -since their genetic composition showed remains of DNA from different entities- this particular type of tardigrade has a more “pure” DNA, showing that this lack of gene transfer suggested that tardigrade’s resilience is not necessarily linked to foreign DNA.
The investigation showed that this tardigrade-unique genetic component suppresses X-Ray induced DNA damage and improves radiotolerance, indicating the relevance of tardigrade to the science of genes-protection and defense bio-mechanisms.