Do jellyfish hold the secret to immortality, and a cure for cancer?

Takashi Murai, via New York Times

Nathaniel Rich on the so-called "immortal jellyfish," Turritopsis dohrnii: "[It] seems able to survive, and proliferate, in every ocean in the world. It is possible to imagine a distant future in which most other species of life are extinct but the ocean will consist overwhelmingly of immortal jellyfish, a great gelatin consciousness everlasting."

By studying microRNAs, "tiny strands of genetic material that regulate gene expression" in the jellyfish, could scientists unlock a new approach to treating cancer?

"There’s a shocking amount of genetic similarity between jellyfish and human beings,” molecular paleobiologist Kevin J. Peterson says in Rich's the New York Times Magazine feature. “If I studied cancer, the last thing I would study is cancer, if you take my point. I would not be studying thyroid tumors in mice. I’d be working on hydra.”

Read the full piece. (thanks, @rddmrdr)

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  1. So, um, any word on when the global gel-consciousness with figure out how to use precisely tailored nematocyst-delivered nerve agents to interface directly with the nervous systems of luckless land dwellers that it happens to engulf?

  2. We think there was already an Age Of Jellies but it’s hard to tell since they don’t leave a fossil record: like defeated ninjas Jellies just dissolve  upon death.

  3. It is possible to imagine a distant future in which most other species of life are extinct but the ocean will consist overwhelmingly of immortal jellyfish
    This is just eukaryotic privilege. In no conceivable future could jellyfish outnumber bacteria, either in number or in biomass. In the future, as today, bacteria will be the overwhelming majority of life.  And bacteria are just as “immortal” as jellyfish in that they too don’t die of old age.

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