This site may earn affiliate commissions from the links on this page. Terms of use.

scientists discover yet another way tardigrades cheat death: turning into gummy bears

Tardigrades, also known as water bears, are just about indestructible. No matter the threat, it seems tardigrades have a trick up their tiny, tiny sleeves. We’ve previously written about these durable little creatures; in 2017, we discussed reports that tardigrades could survive otherwise-lethal dehydration by turning into a kind of bioglass. Now, a group of Japanese researchers has described a new way for tardigrades to cheat death. Evidently, to save itself from drying out, the lovable water bear can become a gummy bear.

“Although water is essential to all life we know of, some tardigrades can live without it potentially for decades. The trick is in how their cells deal with this stress during the process of dehydration,” said Associate Professor Takekazu Kunieda from the University of Tokyo’s Department of Biological Sciences.

“It’s thought that as water leaves a cell, some kind of protein must help the cell maintain physical strength to avoid collapsing in on itself. After testing several different kinds, we have found that cytoplasmic-abundant heat soluble (CAHS) proteins, unique to tardigrades, are responsible for protecting their cells against dehydration.”

scientists discover yet another way tardigrades cheat death: turning into gummy bears

Here you can see CAHS proteins forming gel-like filaments as a cultured cell undergoes dehydration. Image: A Tanaka and T Kunieda

When in water or inside a creature, many proteins loosen up and act like kelp, with waving, frond-like arms. In this well-hydrated state, many different proteins can co-exist within the same volume of tardigrade (or anything else, really), forming a gel. If things get too dry, the proteins can harden, curling up into a tangled, unresponsive mess. However, tardigrade proteins have a minor superpower. When conditions are hot and dry, this gel becomes stiff and springy, to support and protect the tardigrade’s cells from conditions that would otherwise kill them. Once it’s wet enough, the proteins slowly relax, allowing the cells to resume normal function.

Gummy Bears or Glass? Why Not Both?

While the gummy-bear process is very different than glassing, the two explanations aren’t mutually exclusive. Not all species of water-bear experience the same threats. Instead, they each have their own special molecular defenses. But the real trick is coming back from the inert states tardigrades enter to protect themselves.

scientists discover yet another way tardigrades cheat death: turning into gummy bears

Look at him, he’s already a gummy bear. But he’s happy to see you.

“When the animal completely desiccates, [tardigrade-specific disordered proteins] vitrify, turning the cytoplasmic fluid of cells into glass,” said Thomas Boothby, lead author of the 2017 paper exploring tardigrades’ tolerance of extremes. The process Boothby and coauthors describe is similar to what happens when melting sugar to make hard candy. Inside the tardigrade’s cells, the proteins and sugars form a type of sugar glass. In the process, says Boothby, “We think this glassy mixture is trapping [other] desiccation-sensitive proteins and other biological molecules and locking them in place, physically preventing them from unfolding, breaking apart or aggregating together.”

In contrast, in the new report, the authors write, “CAHS proteins form gel-like filaments as they dry out. These form networks that support the shape of the cell as it loses its water. The process is reversible, so as the tardigrade cells become rehydrated, the filaments recede at a rate that doesn’t cause undue stress on the cell.”

scientists discover yet another way tardigrades cheat death: turning into gummy bears

Here you can see the gel-like filaments previously made by CAHS proteins gently breaking down as the cell rehydrates. Image: A Tanaka and T Kunieda.

The authors of this new paper also provide evidence that the gummy-bear gel proteins have “limited functionality” in human cultured cells. We probably won’t be turning people into gummy bears anytime soon. However, Kunieda and his team hope that their report leads to new ways to gently preserve biomaterials. If successful, it could extend the shelf life of medicines, research materials, or even whole organs waiting for transplant.

The report, Stress-dependent cell stiffening by tardigrade tolerance proteins that reversibly form a filamentous network and gel, appears in this month’s issue of PLoS Biology.

Now Read:
  • Tardigrades Shot Out of Gun to Test Origin of Life Theory
  • What if We Taught Robots the Tardigrade Two-Step?
  • Third-Ever Tardigrade Fossil Discovered Hiding in a Hunk of Amber

Keyword: Scientists Discover Yet Another Way Tardigrades Cheat Death: Turning Into Gummy Bears

TECH'S NEWS RELATED

A new ‘common sense’ test for AI could lead to smarter machines

Apple rolls out firmware update for AirPods Pro 2

(Image Courtesy: Apple) Apple is rolling out a firmware update for the AirPods Pro 2 wireless earbuds. The new update promises bug fixes and “other improvements” but Apple is pretty vague about what has been improved. As with all OTA updates, its being rolled out in phases, so you should ...

View more: Apple rolls out firmware update for AirPods Pro 2

Ant Group’s Alipay to boost cashless travel in South Korea through alliance with Thai, Malaysian, Philippines payment providers

Chinese financial technology giant Ant Group is ramping up cashless travel in South Korea through its Alipay+ program, which supports a major collaboration between trusted mobile payment services providers across Asia. The collaboration will enable “Asian tourists to pay with convenience and simplicity in Korea using their preferred home ...

View more: Ant Group’s Alipay to boost cashless travel in South Korea through alliance with Thai, Malaysian, Philippines payment providers

India's push for home-grown navigation system jolts smartphone giants

Reuters The Indian government wants to reduce dependence on foreign systems, including the widely used U.S. Global Positioning System (GPS), and says NavIC provides more accurate domestic navigation and that its use would benefit the economy The Indian government is pushing tech giants to make smartphones compatible with its home-grown ...

View more: India's push for home-grown navigation system jolts smartphone giants

Credit agencies can’t handle BNPL data, says Zilch boss

The reporting of buy now pay later (BNPL) purchases to credit agencies, a suggested regulatory policy for the industry, may be a flawed concept according to the CEO of Zilch. In an interview with UKTN, Zilch CEO Philip Belamant said that despite it being considered in the government’s upcoming ...

View more: Credit agencies can’t handle BNPL data, says Zilch boss

South Korea’s Busan city wants to be blockchain central. Did everyone get the memo?

Busan, South Korea’s second-largest city, launched its blockchain initiative four years ago to put out the welcome mat for the growing industry, hoping to attract technology, jobs and investment and shift away from a reliance on seaborne trade and tourism. Problem is, the message did not seem to reach ...

View more: South Korea’s Busan city wants to be blockchain central. Did everyone get the memo?

Absolute Software Adds Trellix Endpoint Security to Application Resilience Ecosystem

Absolute Software, the only provider of self-healing, intelligent security solutions, today announced a partnership with Trellix, enabling Absolute Resilience® customers to extend its patented Absolute Persistence® technology to Trellix Endpoint Security (ENS). With this latest addition to the company’s Application Resilience™ ecosystem, joint customers can leverage the power of ...

View more: Absolute Software Adds Trellix Endpoint Security to Application Resilience Ecosystem

Zscaler Announces Deeper Integrations With Crowdstrike To Enable Superior Threat Detection For Zero Trust Security

New closed-loop analytics and threat response capabilities reduce risk from ransomware and identity theft in the enterprise Zscaler, Inc., the leader in cloud security, announced new security detection capabilities available through its Zero Trust Exchange cloud security platform and the CrowdStrike XDR platform as part of its expanded partnership ...

View more: Zscaler Announces Deeper Integrations With Crowdstrike To Enable Superior Threat Detection For Zero Trust Security

Technology Education Day: Teaching the Younger Generations about Cybersecurity

Dingdong Maicai to extend ready-made meals offering with new restaurants deal

Avast Commits to Becoming a Founder of the OpenWallet Foundation 

Synthetic data is the safe, low-cost alternative to real data that we need

Samsung launches credit card in India with 10% cashback on its products 24/7

Will have own platform to live-stream proceedings: SC

AirPods Pro 2 Has Connectivity Issue, Says Users

Demand for driving safety monitoring chips on track to grow fast

Samsung's ups and downs (9): Its role on the international stage

Wuling launches new convertible mini EV for less than $15,000

iPhone Users Are Experiencing Battery Life Issues After Updating to iOS 16

Xiaohongshu CFO resigns after less than two years on the job

OTHER TECH NEWS

;