We know why tardigrades survive dehydration

We know why tardigrades survive dehydration

We know why tardigrades survive dehydration

They are known to be true creatures of the extreme: tardigrades survive in particularly hostile environments, some species even resist the vacuum of space! And a new study has just given them a new feat: resisting intense dehydration.

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[EN VIDÉO] Tardigradi, superheroes of the microscopic world
With their plump bodies and small clawed feet, tardigrades are among the cutest creatures in the microscopic world. But don’t be fooled by appearances – their plump scrolls hide the stuff of real superheroes.

In the void of space, below pressures phenomenal, at temperatures close to absolute zero or on the contrary very high …, the tardigrade, from the height of their size of one millimeter, resist everything! Especially in a state of dehydration intense, according to a study recently published in Biology Plos. Tardigrades enter a metabolic state, the researchers explain reversible called anhydrobiosis: their vital functions are therefore almost completely interrupted, but if the humidity returns, all the metabolism restarts.

A process that the team of biologists wanted to deepen: they first used a solvent chemical, trifluoroethanol, to reproduce the conditions of dehydration tardigrade. Then, after much manipulation, they managed to identify themselves proteins surrounding the little creatures, and forming a kind of protective gel around them.

“It is believed that when water leaves a cell, some kind of protein must help the cell maintain its strength. physicist to avoid collapsing on itself, Takekazu Kunieda said in a press releaseco-author of the study e Associate professor at the University of Tokyo. After testing different types, we found that the abundant cytoplasmic proteins soluble in the heat (Cahs) unique to tardigrades, they are responsible for protecting their cells from dehydration.

CAHS proteins that form gelatinous filaments when a human cell in culture undergoes dehydration. © A Tanaka and T Kunieda

Challenges for future medicine

These identified proteins are formed as a cytoskeleton composed of gelatinous filaments, when the cell that contains them dehydrates. In this way they protect it from mechanical stresses that could break it. A reversible process: when the cell recovers water, the filaments shrink. in any case, the proteins Cahs are unique to tardigrades although, according to the study, “Proteins with similar properties may be present in other organisms that are tolerant to drying and contribute to resistence to fatigue “. A great challenge for science, because such a mechanism would allow in particular to better preserve some drugs.

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