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Immortal Jellyfish: The Discovery that Opens New Possibilities for Medical Advances

Turritopsis Dohrnii, the Famous Immortal Jellyfish, has the Ability to Rejuvenate Itself and Live Forever.

jellyfish in the ocean

Photo: Pexels

LatinAmerican Post | Brandon Martínez Salazar

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A study carried out by researchers from the University of Oviedo, published by the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, demonstrated the existence of a jellyfish that achieves immortality.

It is known that there are animals that can live longer than humans, that elephants are immune to cancer, that planarians can regenerate even if their heads are cut off, that cockroaches survive extreme situations or that there are microscopic bugs such as tardigrades that are capable of surviving any cataclysm that occurs on the planet. We are amazed at the abilities of animals. But to think of one that is capable of becoming immortal is like something out of a movie. However, it does exist and is called Turritopsis dohrnii.

What is the Turritopsis dohrnii, the immortal jellyfish?

It is a jellyfish that is present in different ocean areas such as the Caribbean Sea, the Pacific and the Mediterranean. It is part of the large family of anemones and corals, whose organisms stand out for their ability to regenerate cells.

However, the Turritopsis dohrnii manages to exceed expectations and is capable of something that humanity has always dreamed of: rejuvenation. To explain it better, this jellyfish, under normal conditions, completes its life cycle as follows:

  • The male and female gametes unite and a larva emerges.

  • It attaches to the seabed as a polyp, like anemones do.

  • Before sexual maturity, these polyps are released as ephyra.

  • These reproduce sexually and a new cycle begins.

However, when conditions are abnormal and, for example, if the jellyfish become stressed by some environmental threat, they can regress to their previous phases, becoming polyps again, even if they have achieved sexual reproduction. Also, they can repeat this process as many times as they want. Therefore, they do not die of old age.

How was this research accomplished?

Thanks to this biological capacity, the University Institute of Oncology of the University of Oviedo decided to study it. What they did initially was to sequence the genome of this jellyfish, comparing it with T. rubra, a close relative that is deadly; the results of which have given it the name of the immortal jellyfish.

On the other hand, the marine biologist María Pascual, who is co-author of the research, carried out an experiment in collaboration with the Gijón aquarium. In this experiment, the researchers set up fish tanks in the laboratory for jellyfish that feed on crustaceans. So, his genome was sequenced as he grew older.

As a result, important changes were found in DNA replication and repair, especially in genes involved in oxidative stress.

What does this advance contribute to human health?

Carlos López Otín has spent thirty-five years investigating the cellular mechanisms of cancer. Therefore, his interest in the jellyfish led him to develop this study.

According to the professor at the University of Oviedo, throughout his professional life he has understood how cells become selfish, travelers and immortal. So, in the field of oncology, studying these processes is fundamental, since they would allow, in the long term, new ways of treating cancer and other diseases such as neurodegenerative, cardiovascular and those associated with aging.