The incredible potential of this new discovery: the Water Bear

Water bear. Coloured scanning electron micrograph (SEM) of a water bear (Paramacrobiotus craterlaki) in moss. Water bears (or tardigrades) are tiny invertebrates that live in aquatic and semi-aquatic habitats such as lichen and damp moss. Paramacrobiotus craterlaki is a carnivorous species that feeds on nematodes and rotifers. Water bears are found throughout the world, including regions of extreme temperature, such as hot springs, and extreme pressure, such as deep underwater. They can also survive the high levels of radiation and vacuum of space. Magnification: x330 when printed at 10 centimetres wide.

What is it? This is a Water bear in moss in a coloured scanning electron micograph (SEM) picture.

Water bears (Paramacrobiotus craterlaki species) or better known as “tardigrades” are tiny invertebrates that live in lichen and damp moss. They feed on nematodes and rotifers. They are found around the world because they can survive at any extreme temperature and extreme pressure, besides high levels of radiation and vacuum of space.

Recently, a group of scientists have mapped this amazing creature’s genome to understand how they survive harsh climates. They found a protein that protects their DNA from being irradiated.

The scientists made a sample of human DNA to be bombarded with X-rays. Then, they allowed the DNA to create that tardigrade protein and, at that point, the DNA showed half the damage. Further, the protected cells were still able to replicate!

This amazing discovery is not ready to be used in treatment or prevention, but there already are new applications that are waiting for more research to uncover.

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