Tardigrade proteins can protect human cells

Tardigrades are remarkable little creatures. These tiny, eight-legged omnivores can survive in almost any environment. They can be dried out, frozen, boiled, exposed to high radiation levels, and even survive the vacuum of space, although crash landing on the moon may have been fatal. They are also somehow super cute, which is evident from their nicknames: water bear and moss piglet. Tardigrades have been found everywhere, including Antarctica, and are probably in your backyard right now if you want to keep one as a pet.

The proteins responsible for the tardigrade's near-indestructibility have long been studied for potential application to human biology. Scientists from the University of Wyoming have published a study in the journal Protein Science, which found that these proteins can also protect human cells. The lead author of the paper explains:

"Amazingly, when we introduce these proteins into human cells, they gel and slow down metabolism, just like in tardigrades," Sanchez-Martinez says. "Furthermore, just like tardigrades, when you put human cells that have these proteins into biostasis, they become more resistant to stresses, conferring some of the tardigrades' abilities to the human cells."

When removed from biostasis, the human cells were undamaged, and normal metabolic processes resumed. Research will continue to explore possible applications, such as the long-term preservation of human cells and the deceleration of the aging process. [via phys.org]

Previously: How to find a pet tardigrade and care for it