The key to immortality- life as a jellyfish
Since its dawn mankind has searched for the key to immortality but it seems life cannot go on forever, until now. Meet the Turritopsis dohrnii an immortal species of jellyfish. They are about the size of a human’s little finger nail and were discovered in the 1800s but it was not until the 1990s that their unique ability was discovered. Their life starts as a colony of polyps on the seafloor; the jellyfish then buds off this colony and begins it life. The Turritopsis dohrni is unique because when it is exposed to physical harm, be it starvation or physical damage it reverts back to this polyp stage; cells in effect make themselves younger and can re-specialise, changing their function from, for example, a muscle cell to a nerve cell or even a gamete. It is the only known animal that can revert to a sexually immature, colonial stage after reaching maturity. The polyp can then reform into a jellyfish and the cycle is complete. The new jellyfish is genetically identical and is basically reborn, ‘immortality’ is used loosely as it is not entirely correct but it’s far from the mortality you or I will experience. This has lead to swarms of identical jellyfish springing up all over the globe, some in Spain and others in Asia but all genetically identical, often carried by ships to other parts of the globe. Despite this genetic uniformity, where the jellyfish are found seems to dictate the number of tentacles they have ranging from 8 to 24 depending on location. Although it is unlikely to see research into these immortal jellyfish finding its way into the latest Nivea anti-aging cream the jellyfish’s unique ability may find another way to benefit us. During the formation of polyps when in danger the jellyfish’s cells change nature, seeming to re-specialise, switching on previously inactive genes and switching off one that are no longer needed, if this unique system could be integrated into the rapidly mutating cells of a cancer patient millions of lives could be saved, preventing the rapid division or putting them to use to grow new organs or tissue for transplants and graphs. Not bad for brain-lacking, gelatinous mass that’s mouth doubles up as its anus, right?
1. “Immortal” Jellyfish Swarm World’s Oceans -Ker Than “National Geographic News” – January 29, 2009
2. “Turritopsis dohrnii” Wikepedia
3.Turritopsis Dohrnii – Is It Really Immortal? – Monday, 15 September 2014