May 2, 2024 at 12:36 pm

Scientists Are Taking Tardigrade Genes And Using Them To Give Humans A Shot At Surviving In Space

by Trisha Leigh

Source: Shutterstock

NASA is pushing hard for a manned trip to Mars, and I think we all know that, in the back of everyone’s mind, they’re thinking long term.

Like, what if Earth becomes uninhabitable and we have to leave or perish long term.

Of course, human beings can’t survive in space, so that’s a bummer.

But, what if we could solve it with modern science?

The answer, oddly enough, might lie in a nearly microscope being that can survive the ravages of space.

Source: Shutterstock

This study out of the University of Wyoming included an international team of researchers. They wanted to look into an organism called a tardigrade (also known as a “water bear” or “moss piglet).

Oddly, the little creature has a number of proteins abilities that could come in really handy for human beings.

One of them could slow the aging process.

Another is that, due to their ability to survive both extreme cold and extreme heat, they can survive in space with little-to-no intervention.

Tardigrades combat dangerous conditions like extreme temperatures and even exposure to radiation by going into biostasis, a state of suspended animation.

Source: Shutterstock

This is the subject of the study, headed by molecular biologist Thomas Boothby.

They looked into the protein CAHS D, which is the key to the tardigrade’s biostasis. When they introduced this protein to human kidney cells, it resulted in a gel-like consistency they believe could help them hack our own genes in the future.

Silvia Sanchez-Martinez, lead author of the study, says there is reason to be hopeful the tardigrade could help improve our own biological response to stress.

“Amazingly, when we introduce these proteins into human cells, they gel and slow down metabolism, just like in tardigrades. 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.”

Source: Shutterstock

What’s even stranger, says Boothby, is that once the “osmotic stress” factors are gone, the human cells return to normal.

“When the stress is relieved the tardigrade gels dissolve, and the human cells return to their normal metabolism.”

And listen, no one is saying we can genetically alter human beings to survive in space tomorrow.

But one day, well…it definitely doesn’t seem impossible.

If you think that’s impressive, check out this story about a “goldmine” of lithium that was found in the U.S. that could completely change the EV battery game.