A team of scientists from the University of Oviedo have discovered some key molecular mechanisms that allow the immortal jellyfish (Turritopsis dohrinii) to reverse aging, thanks to its genome.
This tiny sea creature is able to reverse the usual process of aging and death by returning to a clump of juvenile cells—even after reproducing sexually.
The team has sequenced the genome of T. dohrnii and its direct relative Turritopsis rubra (without reverse aging capacity). Comparing their genomes they identified the key molecular mechanisms of eternal life.
These genes are responsible of increasing the efficiency of DNA replication and the reparation of possible genetic damage. They also enhance the maintenance of telomeres (DNA fragments that protect the ends of chromosomes from becoming frayed or tangled), which shorten as the organism ages. Differences in genes related to intercellular communication and the reduction of the oxidative environment have also been found.
Finally, they observed an increase in the expression of cell pluripotency genes and a decrease in the expression of genes related to Polycomb pathway of epigenetic regulation. This allows differentiated cells in the adult organism to return to the state of pluripotent cells. Thus, they can generate any type of cell in the new organism.
Maria Pascual-Torner, the first author of the study, explains that it is a complex process. It’s not a single molecular pathway, but a combination of many of them.
Read the full article published on Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences here.