'Immortal' Jellyfish May Unlock Anti-Aging Secret

Gradually spreading throughout the world's oceans, Turritopsis, a tiny 5 mm creature has developed a unique response to physical stress. When conditions become bleak enough, either through injury, starvation, or environmental alteration and end of life is faced, a unique transformational process ensues. It is not known why most specimens, in the absence of extraordinary stress, simply die like other species.

Essentially, in those cases where excessive stress is accumulated by the organism, a process is triggered where its cells are empowered to convert themselves from one organizing form to another. Muscle cells may become nerve cells or even sperm or egg cells. The jellyfish turns itself into a bloblike cyst, which then develops into a polyp colony, essentially the first stage in jellyfish life.

Through asexual reproduction, the resulting polyp colony can spawn hundreds of genetically identical jellyfish, near perfect copies of the original adult.

This unique approach to hardship may be helping Turritopsis swarms spread throughout the world's oceans, according to Pia Miglietta, a researcher at Penn State.

The unique cellular conversion process of Turritopsis may offer potential to anti-aging researchers searching for chemical compounds and transmitters that can transform the aging process by neutralizing free radicals, possibly sweeping away lacunae and bugs in repetitively replicated DNA code (bad code leads to flawed cells as we age) and instigating cellular genesis. It seems to be an organism that can turn back the clock, literally morphing from an adult into a newborn state.

Article at Nationalgeographic.com

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