Secrets of ‘immortal jellyfish’ unlocked by Spanish scientists

Image of the Turritopsis dohrnii jellyfish. Credit: Wikipedia - By Bachware - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=48971787

Spanish scientists have unlocked the secrets of the ‘immortal jellyfish’, the Turritopsis dohrnii.

 

As reported in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Spanish scientists have revealed the genetic code of the ‘immortal jellyfish’, a sea creature with the ability to revert to its juvenile larval form over and over.

Maria Pascual-Torner, Victor Quesada, and colleagues at the University of Oviedo, conducted a study to understand why the Turritopsis dohrnii has this special ability. They compared the genetic sequence of T. dohrnii to Turritopsis rubra, a close cousin that doesn’t have those same rejuvenation abilities.

In their report, the researchers said that the Turritopsis dohrnii is the only species that is able to repeatedly rejuvenate itself after sexual reproduction, making it biologically immortal.

Monty Graham, a jellyfish expert who is also director of the Florida Institute of Oceanography – who was not involved in the research – told Reuters news agency: “We’ve known about this species being able to do a little evolutionary trickery for maybe 15-20 years”.

Scientists compared a set of almost 1,000 genes linked to ageing and DNA repair between T. dohrni and other cnidarians. They were then able to present the full range of mRNA expressed by the jellyfish at different stages of the life cycle reversal process.

T. dohrnii isn’t the only cnidarian species to self-rejuvenate, but this ability is usually lost once the animals reach sexual maturity, the scientists explained. 

The study found that variations in T. dohrnii’s genome might make it better at copying and repairing DNA. They also appeared to be better at maintaining the ends of chromosomes called telomeres – in humans and other species, telomere length has been found to shorten with age.

It is hoped that unravelling the mysteries of the immortal jellyfish will help provide clues for human ageing. Grahan told Reuters that there was no immediate commercial value from the new findings.

“We can’t look at it as, hey, we’re going to harvest these jellyfish and turn it into a skin cream,” said Graham. “It’s one of those papers that I do think will open up a door to a new line of study that’s worth pursuing”, as reported by dw.com.

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Written by

Chris King

Originally from Wales, Chris spent years on the Costa del Sol before moving to the Algarve where he is a web reporter for The Euro Weekly News covering international and Spanish national news. Got a news story you want to share? Then get in touch at [email protected]

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