February 24, 2024

Research finds why tardigrades are nearly indestructible

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Interaction with amino acids leads to a protective mode in the water bear © Imago/Kreutz

Bears live in the harshest places. Researchers have now found an explanation for the life-saving mechanism.

USA – Clumsy, almost cute, almost indestructible: tardigrades. Microorganisms have made a name for themselves through their almost unprecedented resistance. Drought, arctic temperatures and lack of oxygen have almost no effect on the animals, also known as water bears.

The reason for this lies in the protective state that tardigrades can enter in the face of such harsh environmental situations, called “Tönnchen”. The water bear retracts its distinctive little legs and its metabolism almost stops. It is still unclear what triggered this mechanism in animals. Researchers in the United States have now found an answer to this question. Your study was conducted in magazine One plus published.

The role of free radicals is central to the research group's findings. Oxygen atoms or molecules with unpaired electrons are highly reactive because they “steal” electrons from other atoms. This creates what is called oxidative stress, which usually damages cells and compounds such as proteins and DNA.

Interaction with amino acids leads to a protective mode in tardigrades

The special thing is that, according to the study, tardigrades do not try to protect themselves from free radicals. Instead, the free radicals produced by animals appear to initiate a protective mode necessary for survival.

During the experiment, tardigrades were exposed to different stressful situations that produced free radicals. These included high concentrations of hydrogen peroxide, salt or sugar. The researchers later used materials that prevent oxidation using the amino acid cysteine. This showed that if cysteine ​​was not available to free radicals, tardigrades could not fall into the protected state of “tin”.

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The interaction of free radicals and cysteine ​​guarantees “tons”

The research team concludes from this that only the interaction of free radicals and cysteine ​​makes the tardigrade protection mechanism possible.

Reverse CNN Amand L said: Smithers, one of the study's lead authors, said these findings could now be used for further research into cancer treatment, for example. But the results could also be used to develop protective materials for extreme environments such as space. (pkb)