Water Bears Are Indestructible, and Scientists Know Why

Water bears survive in hostile environments

Water bears walk like bears

Water bears are fascinating little creatures, whose secrets have been recently revealed by scientists. They proved themselves to be remarkably resistant under numerous hostile conditions, and a particular protein of the organisms is responsible for this behavior. Specialists intent to use the protein to the benefit of humans and develop a way of protecting human DNA under similar conditions.

Experiments and Testing

A group of Japanese scientists led interesting studies on water bears. They managed to sequence the genome of these micro-animals and identify the special protein in their genes. It is called Dsup, and its’ role is to prevent their DNA from being irradiated, among others. In other words, it makes the tiny organisms indestructible.

A previous study proved that these little animals could survive extremely cold temperatures, as scientists froze some individuals, and revived them later. Two of then resisted for thirty years. They also can live without oxygen and water, although they are aquatic creatures. Scientists believe that they can also live in space, where there are no breathable and life-sustaining conditions.

Researchers also tried the protein on human DNA. Their experiment consisted in damaging the sample with X-rays, then allowing the cells to heal with the help of the substance produced by water bears. What the scientists observed was that the protein prevented the DNA of our species from being damaged by forty percent, which is an impressive achievement. According to specialists, water bears developed this property as a result of their adaptation to dehydration. Previous experiments showed that these incredible aquatic animals could survive dehydration too.

Predictions on Water Bears and Dsup

Further implications of these studies are concerned with the Dsup protein being used on humans. Researchers state that the substance can be transplanted into a living person. The result of such an action is making the human organism more resistant.

The experiments conducted by several groups of experts show that human DNA can be protected from damaging radiations thanks to the properties of water bears. As the micro-animals are also resistant when it comes to lack of oxygen, scientists predict that humans could live in space, if their DNA is modified with the protein.

Water bears are also called moss piglets, but their scientific name is Tardigrades. They have eight legs and enjoy aquatic environments. They were called “water bears” because of the way they walk. The largest specimen can reach 1.5 mm.

The study on the indestructibility of water bears was published in the journal Nature Communications.

Image courtesy of: Wikipedia

About Marlene R. Litten

Marlene has always been a journalist at heart, though her wordsmithing capabilities helped her contribute to a multitude of blogs before finally settling for the online press. She strongly advocates for those treated unjustly and likes to cover US and World news.