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Tiny tardigrades - also known as water bears and moss piglets - have many strange properties, including being able to withstand huge amounts of radiation, temperatures ranging from 150°C (302°F) to near absolute zero, and pressures six times greater than in the deepest ocean trenches
They can be brought to life after being frozen solid for decades.....tardigrades are impossibly weird and indestructible......
Scientists have found out that the lethal dose of Gamma Rays to kill Tardigrades is 5,000 Gy while the lethal dose of heavy ions is 6,200 Gy. For humans, 5-10 Gy is lethal
They can survive in the most hostile environment known to human – the space!
They can survive high toxic environmental conditions for years by entering a state known as chemobiosis.
It was assumed that their survival relied on a sugar called trehalose, which is what brine shrimps - or sea monkeys - use to preserve their cells during desiccation.
But research has shown that trehalose levels are much lower in dried-out tardigrades than they are in brine shrimp, so that couldn't be the solution.
tardigrades produce a special type of 'bioglass' that holds their essential proteins and molecules in a suspended state until they're rehydrated back to life.
So water bears coat themselves in living glass when they're dried out, and plain old water will melt their proteins back to normal and snap them out of suspended animation.
Since identifying the proteins responsible for the production of this bioglass, called intrinsically disordered proteins (IDPs), Boothby and his team have figured out that they could engineer other creatures to carry these proteins and survive desiccation themselves.
When the team inserted these genes into living yeast and bacteria, they found that the TDPs protected them from extreme desiccation just like the tardigrades.
The team's results have now officially been published, which means we have the proof-of-concept in hand to go and make this tardigrade superpower work for us.
And when I say "us", it's actually a possibility, because while yeast and bacteria aren't the most exciting organisms in the world, there are hints that TDPs could work in larger, more complex creatures too.
When the team decided to express the gene that controls IDP production in specially engineered human epithelial cells (HeLa), they found that it produced bioglass upon desiccation.
And a separate experiment last year also found that the protein that protects tardigrades from crazy amounts of radiation can be transferred to cultures of human cells, which really does send the mind boggling.
Other potential applications include developing crops that can survive severe, long-lasting droughts, or even medications that can finally be stored at room temperature instead of having to be constantly chilled - something that makes supply in remote and developing communities extremely difficult.
"Being able to stabilise sensitive pharmaceuticals in a dry state is very important to me personally," says Boothby.
Dun Dun Tah Dah Dah........ Captain Tardigrade!