AP Biology class blog for discussing current research in Biology

Tag: water bear

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: 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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