A fountain of youth pill could be on the horizon… thanks to a jellyfish-like sea creature.
The bizarre animal regrows its entire body from cells in its mouth, opening the door to an elixir of life.
Lead author Dr. Charles Rotimi, of the U.S. National Human Genome Research Institute, said: “Studies like this that explore the biology of unusual organisms reveal both how universal many biological processes are and how much we have yet to understand about their functions, relationships and evolution.
“Such findings have great potential for providing novel insights into human biology.”
Hydractinia symbiolongicarpus is small and tube-shaped – living on the shells of hermit crabs.
Its superpowers have implications for healing and anti-aging treatments.
They were discovered after researchers sequenced bits of DNA, called RNA, associated with the biological process of aging, also known as senescence.
The study in the journal Cell Reports found that fundamental biological processes are connected. It is essential to understanding both human health and disease. Humans have some capacity to regenerate, like healing a broken bone or even regrowing a damaged liver. Other animals, like salamanders and zebrafish, can replace entire limbs and replenish a variety of organs. But simple-bodied species like Hydractinia often have the most extreme regenerative abilities.
Co-author Dr. Andy Baxenavis, from the same lab, said: “Most studies on senescence are related to chronic inflammation, cancer and age-related diseases. Typically, in humans, senescent cells stay senescent, and these cells cause chronic inflammation and induce aging in adjacent cells. From animals like Hydractinia, we can learn about how senescence can be beneficial and expand our understanding of aging and healing.”
Hydractinia uses stem cells, master cells that can turn into any kind of tissue. The team identified similar related genes in humans. Experiments showed Hydractinia ejects senescent, or aging cells, out of its mouths.
While humans can’t get rid of aging cells that easily, the roles of senescence-related genes in Hydractinia suggest how the process of aging evolved. Humans shared an ancestor with Hydractinia—and its close relatives, jellyfish and corals — over 600 million years ago, and these animals don’t age at all.
It can provide crucial insights into our earliest animal ancestors. Regeneration may have been the original function of senescence in the first animals.
“We still don’t understand how senescent cells trigger regeneration or how widespread this process is in the animal kingdom,” added Dr. Baxenavis.
“Fortunately, by studying some of our most distant animal relatives, we can start to unravel some of the secrets of regeneration and aging—secrets that may ultimately advance the field of regenerative medicine and the study of age-related diseases, as well.”
Produced in association with SWNS Talker
Edited by Jessi Rexroad Shull and Joseph Donald Gunderson
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