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Tag: tardigrade

Uncovering One Mystery of Tardigrades

Tardigrades, are one of the more well known creatures of the microscopic world. Something that keeps them in the spotlight is their extreme survivability. However, when active tardigrades don’t have their toughness. They only have that survivability when they are dormant, or are in a state called suspended animation, read this blog to find out how they enter this state.

Tardigrades can be called water bears or moss piglets in addition to their official name. This is due to the fact that the location they are found in is typically in water in mossy or muddy areas. They are microscopic eight legged animals that when dormant are close to invincible. When needed, tardigrades can curl into a ball called a tun. One of the reasons they are able to do this is that water bears are invertebrates. When they are in a tun, tardigrades pull in their legs, release water, turn their insides to glass, and nearly stop their metabolism. Once in this state tardigrades can withstand radiation from x-rays and even trips into space.

Derrick Kolling, a chemist at Marshall University found that chemical changes called oxidation to the amino acid cysteine trigger the tun state, and they even found that when this process is reversed, it brings tardigrades out of their dormant state.


SEM image of Milnesium tardigradum in active state - journal.pone.0045682.g001-2

Scientists have wondered for a long time what causes tardigrades to go into the tun state, and this finding is an exciting discovery for the biology world. This discovery helps explain some unknown pieces of the biology of water bears as a tun, and there is even hope that this discovery can explain some biological aspects of other creatures in their respective tun state’s.

Kolling started this project almost out ofnowhere. After seeing tardigrades in the news frequently, he decided to find some and test them with an EPR Spectrometer, a device that studies atoms and molecules with unpaired electrons. This relates to our AP Biology class as we also found tardigrades for a lab, and we learned about their toughness, origins, and survivability.

After using the EPR Spectrometer to test a few different things, the researchers found that blocking cysteine oxidation prevented tardigrades from forming tuns triggered by exposure to high levels of salt or sugar. They found that blocking this oxidation also prevented water bears from surviving freezing. This suggests that cysteine oxidation is what triggers the tun state.

Prior to reading this, what did you think caused tardigrades to enter the tun state?

Do you think tardigrades really came from space?

Have you ever tried to find a tardigrade?

Post Includes edits and suggestions made by ChatGPT.


Tardigrades in Space?

Behold the tardigrade: the eight legged microscopic phenomenon sometimes known as the water bear. They have long been known for their fascinating resilience in extreme environments. And now, according to this article, scientists now believe that they have found the reason why they are so indestructible. It has to do with their ability to hibernate.

When under stress or in a dangerous environment, the tardigrades are able to curl up into a ball known as the “tun stage” and enter a dormant state. In these situations, their cells are able to detect when they are producing harmful substances called free radicals. These free radicals then come in contact with cysteines, an amino acid in our bodies. The cysteines oxidize the free radical, which oxidizes the signal that allows the tardigrades to enter their tun stage. The tardigrades can wake up from their tuns when the cysteine is no longer being oxidized, which can be seen when the conditions around them improve. According to this article these findings can provide plenty of insight about how tardigrades are able to withstand the conditions of space travel. If this process allows the tardigrades to survive in environments of extreme temperatures or stress, they would certainly be able to use the same strategies when they are sent to space.


In addition to these findings about tardigrade space travel, other research has been done about how these tardigrades can help us make advancements in medicine. This article states that they can be used to preserve biological materials such as cells or tissues. We use the information gathered from their resilient hibernation abilities to make this connection to the medical field. This can be very helpful in the healthcare industry because these advancements will allow us to keep these life-saving materials alive for longer periods of time.

In AP Bio, we spent time learning about tardigrades and even got to do our own search for them in class. My lab group was able to find tardigrades in a moss sample from our school’s campus, and it was so interesting to see them in the microscope after much intense searching. Because of this, I was very interested to read about these new findings, and it is so fascinating to see how such a tiny organism can be so powerful. I look forward to seeing what other advancements can be made with tardigrades and I would love to hear your thoughts!

Cancer-Causing Free Radicals Are the Key to Tardigrade Survival

Tardigrade (50594282802)

Many may recognize the resilience of tardigrades, the microscopic water bears that can seemingly endure any and all conditions—researchers have found that tardigrades possess this attribute because of their ability to harness free radicals, the infamous matter that causes cancer in humans.

Tardigrades have survived all five mass extinction events on Earth, and are thought to have been around since before the current eon. They can live through extreme temperature and radiation, and even the vacuum of space. But how are they capable of this immense resilience?

Traditionally, free radicals have been known to promote cancer, causing genetic mutations that allow cells to multiply uncontrollably. First, in mitosis, the mutated cell divides, then its offspring divides, and before long a mass forms. That mass, or tumor, grows uncontrollably, consuming vital nutrients and mechanically interfering with the body’s internal function. If left unchecked, the tumor will eventually overwhelm the body’s ability to survive. However, there’s a flip side to free radicals.

The tardigrade has managed to harness the destructive power of free radicals in its quest for survival. For years, scientists have been baffled by the tardigrade’s ability to undergo drastic transformation in times of extreme stress. The organism’s transformations are a part of cryptobiosis, which consists of (but is not limited to) anhydrobiosis and cryobiosis. In anhydrobiosis, the tardigrade decreases its water content by 99% and its metabolic rate by 99.99%, and remains in a “tun” state for five years or more, only to rehydrate and flourish once environmental conditions are back to normal. In addition, via cryobiosis and other cryptobiosis processes, the tardigrade can survive extreme heat (304° F) and cold (-458° F). And the trigger for all of these survival mechanisms: free radicals, the same extra-electron atoms and molecules that cause human cells to mutate and multiply to form tumors.

Recent research suggests that tardigrades initiate cryptobiosis and protect themselves by releasing intracellular reactive oxygen species (free radicals) that in turn reversibly oxidize cysteine, an amino acid that acts as a sort of regulatory sensor for responses to stressors. The obvious question is: why isn’t the tardigrade harmed by the free radicals? The answer might hold the key to better understanding how to prevent cellular mutation, and cancer, in humans. Additional investigation is needed in this area.

So, what do you think? Are there similar discoveries that may be able to help us combat cancer?

Tardigrades: the Superheroes of Biology

What is a Tardigrade?

Tardigrades are microscopic caterpillar-like creatures, sometimes called water bears, that are known to survive the extremes. Unfortunately, they look nothing like the Sea Bear from Spongebob, and a lot more like Rufus the Naked Mole Rat from Kim Possible.

Tardigrade (water bear)

Tardigrades are biological superheroes, capable of withstanding near total dehydration and even space vacuums. Tardigrades do something called cryptobiosis– a state in which metabolic activities are slowed and proteins and sugars are synthesized to protect the organism’s cells. This makes it possible for Tardigrades to live in extreme environments where other life forms fail to survive, such as deserts and polar regions.

Why do we care?

Scientists recently discovered a new Tardigrade superpower: Resistance to X-Ray radiation. This survival skill is due to one of the proteins synthesized during cryptobiosis: Dsup. A molecular biologist from the University of Tokyo (Takekazu Kunieda) led an experiment in which cultures of human cells were manipulated to have similar qualities to Tardigrade cells. These new cells were able to reduce radiation damage by 40%.

These new findings open the doors for improving the resistance to radiation in humans. One day, it could be safe for people to withstand extreme radiation, temperatures, or dehydration just like the Tardigrade does. Who would have thought that such a tiny organism had the potential to solve so many problems?


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