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 attributed a new feat to them: that of resisting intense dehydration.
In the vacuum of space, underphenomenal, at temperatures close to the or conversely very high…, the , from the top of their size of a millimeter, resist everything! Especially at a state of intense, according to a study recently published in . Tardigrades enter a metabolic state, researchers explain called anhydrobiosis: their vital functions are then almost completely stopped, but if the humidity then returns, all the restarts.
A process that the team of biologists wanted to deepen: they first used achemical, trifluoroethanol, in order to reproduce dehydration conditions on . Then, after many manipulations, they managed to identify 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.to avoid collapsing on itself, said Takekazu Kunieda in a co-author of the study and at the University of Tokyo. After testing several different types, we found that the abundant soluble cytoplasmic proteins in the (Cahs) unique to tardigrades, are responsible for protecting their cells against dehydration.”
CAHS proteins that form gel-like filaments when a cultured human cell undergoes dehydration. © A Tanaka and T Kunieda
Challenges for future medicine
These identified proteins form like acomposed of gel-like filaments, when the cell containing them becomes dehydrated. In this way, they protect it from mechanical stresses that could break it. A reversible process: when the cell recovers water, the filaments withdraw. However, the Cahs are unique to tardigrades although, according to the study, “proteins with similar properties could be present in other organisms tolerant to the and contribute to the to “. A major challenge for science, because such a mechanism would in particular make it possible to better preserve certain drugs.
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