Tardigrade proteins found to slow human cell metabolism

Tardigrade proteins found to slow human cell metabolism

Tardigrade proteins found to slow human cell metabolism

Scientists have been baffled by tardigrades’ capacity to withstand drying out since they exhibit a behavior that seems distinct from that of several other organisms that can enter biostasis or suspended animation.



A new study has suggested that proteins discovered in resilient tardigrades, known for their remarkable indestructibility, might hold promise as a crucial component in slowing down the aging process in humans.

Tardigrades, also called water bears, are tiny animals less than half a millimeter long. They can withstand extreme temperatures and even the vacuum of space.

Researchers from the University of Wyoming (UW) have deepened their understanding of how tardigrades endure harsh environments. They have demonstrated that proteins from these microscopic creatures can decelerate molecular processes when introduced into human cells.

The details of the study were published in the journal Protein Science.

Focus on tardigrade proteins

Tardigrades are tiny organisms capable of enduring harsh conditions by morphing into dehydrated balls and nearly halting their metabolisms. Researchers say they rely on naturally disordered CAHS proteins for survival when dried out. These proteins enable their survival and prevent drying-induced disruptions in laboratory settings and other organisms.

The organisms can also withstand being completely dried out, frozen to a temperature just above absolute zero (minus 458 degrees Fahrenheit, when all molecular motion ceases), heated to a temperature higher than 300 degrees Fahrenheit, and exposed to radiation thousands of times higher than humans could tolerate.

The study looks at the processes tardigrades utilize to go into and out of suspended animation in response to environmental stress. Scientists specifically examined CAHS D, a tardigrade protein that adopts a gel-like form when introduced to human cells.

The team noticed that CAHS D creates networks of fibers in living organisms when there’s osmotic stress. These fiber networks help cells survive when they’re shocked by changes in their environment. Two important things happen with these fibers: they stop cells from changing size and slow down how fast cells use energy during the shock.

“Amazingly, when we introduce these proteins into human cells, they gel and slow down metabolism, just like in tardigrades. Furthermore, just like tardigrades, when you put human cells that have these proteins into biostasis, they become more resistant to stresses, conferring some of the tardigrades’ abilities to the human cells,” said Sanchez-Martinez, a member of UW lab and the lead author of the study, in a statement.

A reversible process

In more crucial findings, the team could also demonstrate that the entire process is reversible. Once the stress is alleviated, the gels formed by the tardigrades dissolve, and human cells revert to their regular metabolism.

“Our findings provide an avenue for pursuing technologies centered on the induction of biostasis in cells and even whole organisms to slow aging and enhance storage and stability,” said the team in the study.

Previous research by the team suggests that an essential medication for patients with hemophilia and other disorders can be preserved using natural and synthetic tardigrade proteins. Remarkably, refrigeration is not required for stabilization.

Researchers claim that the study adds to the body of evidence suggesting that tardigrade proteins may one day be employed to improve the preservation of cell-based therapies like stem cells and enable access to life-saving medications for patients in areas without refrigeration.

Source: Interesting Engineering

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Tardigrade proteins found to slow human cell metabolism

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