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."