Immortal Jellyfish Genes May Aid in Stopping Aging

A jellyfish that is just a few inches long and has the ability to convert back into a polyp may hold the secret to curing diseases associated with aging.

A group of researchers from the University of Oviedo have successfully identified the genes of the Turritopsis dohrnii jellyfish, also known as the “immortal” jellyfish. After five years of hard work, they have discovered a number of factors that contribute to the jellyfish’s ability to live for a significantly longer time, even to the point where they do not die. This is a big step forward that may aid researchers in their quest to find treatments for diseases that are associated with aging in humans.

Immortal jellyfish.
Immortal jellyfish. (Credit: HA)

Carlos López-Otrn, a professor of biochemistry and molecular biology who is also in charge of the research project, says that the goal of this work is not to find a way to make people live forever, but to figure out the keys and limits of the fascinating cellular plasticity that lets some organisms go back in time.

Because of this, researchers believe that the goal is to discover better treatments for the many diseases that are linked to aging. This tiny jellyfish changes its life cycle to an earlier asexual stage called a polyp and rejuvenates. This is in contrast to the vast majority of living things, which, after the reproductive stage, advance in a typical process of cellular and tissue aging that ultimately results in death.

Genes that allow to live forever

Comparison between the mortal and the immortal jellyfish
A comparison between the mortal and the immortal jellyfish

After sequencing the genome of Turritopsis dohrnii and comparing it to the genes of its mortal sister, Turritopsis rubra, researchers were able to identify specific genes that are either amplified in the immortal jellyfish or have differential variations that are only found in the immortal jellyfish. These genes are thought to be responsible for the jellyfish’s ability to live forever.

These genes have an effect on activities that have been associated with a healthy and long life in humans, such as the replication and repair of DNA, the preservation of telomeres, the renewal of stem cell populations, intercellular communication, and a decrease in the oxidative cellular environment.

During the investigation of changes in gene expression that took place during jellyfish rejuvenation, gene-silencing signals were found to be mediated through the so-called “Polycomb” route. Additionally, there was a rise in the expression of genes associated with the cellular pluripotency pathway.

Because both processes are necessary for specialized cells to differentiate and become any kind of cell, which results in the production of a new creature, these findings suggest that these two metabolic pathways are key mediators in the rejuvenation cycle that this jellyfish goes through.

Multiple keys to immortality

According to Mara Pascual-Torner, a postdoctoral researcher, the various mechanisms discovered act synergistically as a whole, and orchestrating the process to ensure the successful rejuvenation of the jellyfish. This means that there is not a single key to immortality and rejuvenation. Instead, the mechanisms work together to ensure the successful rejuvenation of the jellyfish.

The study was published today in the American journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) and it was funded by the EU and the Ministry of Science and Innovation. The study involved researchers from the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of Oviedo.

By Bertie Atkinson

Bertie Atkinson is a history writer at Malevus. He writes about diverse subjects in history, from ancient civilizations to world wars. In his free time, he enjoys reading, watching Netflix, and playing chess.