Friday, April 16, 2010

Immortal Jellyfish

From Ponce de Leon's Fountain of Youth to Dr. Douglas Grey's theory of Engineered Negligible Senescence1, humans have always been fixated on immortality. Yet, in spite of all of our medical and genetic engineering advances, we have still not managed to achieve this feat. Mother Nature, however, has already beaten us to the punch, with an immortal jellyfish.

turritopsis nutriculaThe turritopsis nutricula species of jellyfish may, in fact, be the only immortal creature in the world. It is the only one we have discovered thus far.

This jellyfish achieves everlasting life through the process of transdifferentiation: a process by which one type of cell transforms into another type of cell. Usually, animals can only use transdifferentiation in order to regenerate organs or limbs (e.g. salamanders). Turritopsis nutricula, however, transdifferentiates throughout its entire life, enabling it to cycle from an immature polyp stage, to a mature adult, and then back to its polyp stage again.

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