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‘Immortal Jellyfish’ May Have the Secret of Life in its Genes

Immortal Jellyfish
Scientists Unlock Secrets of ‘Immortal Jellyfish’ Credit: (Video Screenshot) ABC Science / YouTube

Scientists have unlocked the hereditary code of the “immortal jellyfish,” which has the ability to repeatedly return to its juvenile larval form, and therefore it can live forever.

Being the only species that is capable of repetitively rejuvenating itself after sexual reproduction, Turritopsis dohrnii is biologically immortal, scientists wrote in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

It’s expected that unraveling the mysteries of the immortal jellyfish will help provide clues for human aging.

Maria Pascual-Torner, Victor Quesada, and colleagues at the University of Oviedo, Spain compared the genetic sequence of T. dohrnii to Turritopsis rubra, a close cousin that doesn’t have rejuvenation abilities.

The point of the comparison was to understand the reason for the Turritopsis dohrnii’s special ability.

Although he was not involved in the research, Monty Graham, a jellyfish expert and director of the Florida Institute of Oceanography said, “We’ve known about this species being able to do a little evolutionary trickery for maybe [fifteen to twenty] years.”

Scientists were then able to present the full range of mRNA expressed by the jellyfish at different stages of the life cycle reversal process after comparing a set of almost one thousand genes linked to aging and DNA repair between T. dohrni and other cnidarians.

T. dohrnii not the only immortal jellyfish

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

According to the study, variations in T. dohrnii’s genome might make it more efficient at copying and repairing DNA. T. dohrnii seems to be better at maintaining the ends of chromosomes called telomeres whereas in humans and other species, telomere length has been found to shorten with age.

There was no immediate commercial value from the new findings, Graham told reporters.

“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,” Graham predicted.

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