Tardigrades are microscopic creatures that have much in common with liberals. They are able to stayed dried out for a decade and have bisexual mating habits. Tardigrades are also known as water bears because of their looks. But they have a unique way of surviving without water for long periods of time. That is due to the ‘tardigrade-specific intrinsically disordered proteins’ (TDPs).
When there is water around this protein takes on a jelly-like consistency, but when there is no water the (TDPs) turns to glass and protects the vital organs against the heat and dry conditions.
While this may all seem like a trivia question and nothing more, if scientists learn to duplicate the process it can have some major world wide impact in areas such as drought resistant crops and to preserve medications without the need to refrigerate.
Researchers from the University of North Carolina were interested in understanding how the creatures are able to endure dry conditions for such long periods of time.
Dr Thomas Boothby, first author of the study, said: ‘The big takeaway from our study is that tardigrades have evolved unique genes that allow them to survive drying out.
‘In addition, the proteins that these genes encode can be used to protect other biological material – like bacteria, yeast, and certain enzymes – from desiccation.’
Until now, researchers assumed that a sugar called trehelose gave tardigrades their ability to tolerate desiccation.
Trehelose is found in a number of other organisms with this ability, including yeast, brine shrimp, and some nematodes.
But biochemical studies showed that tardigrades had very low levels of trehelose, suggesting they used a different mechanism.