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Turritopsis Nutricula – A Living Fountain of Youth
According to an account written by Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo in General and Natural History of the Indies (1535) Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon (1474-1521), the first governor of Puerto Rico (then called Boriquien) tried to discover the fountain of youth, a mysterious spring that restored youth to everyone who drank from its waters. Although the legend originally pointed to Ethiopia based on Book III of The History of Herodotus, when the Greek historian (c. 484 BC-c. 425 BC) wrote in c. 440 BC – “The Ichthyophages [a term synonymous with coastal dwelling peoples] then in turn asked the king about the life span and diet of his people, and it was said that the majority of them lived up to a hundred and twenty years, while some even passed that age – they ate cooked meat, and had only milk for their drink.
When the Ichthyophages wondered at the number of years, [Egyptian Pharaoh Amasis (570 BC-526 BC)] led them to a fountain [in Ethiopia], where they washed, they found their flesh all shiny and smooth, as if they had bathed in oil – and from the spring came a smell like that of violets. The water was so weak, they said nothing would float in it, not wood, not any lighter substance, but everything went to the bottom. If the story about this fountain were true, it would be their constant use of the water from it that makes them so long-lived” – later stories pointed to an island called Boinca located in Benini or Bimini, the westernmost district of the Bahamas.
With Boinca within reach, Ponce de Leon made two attempts to locate the mysterious fountain – one in 1513 and the other in 1521. Although reports state that he never found the fountain of youth, scientific evidence indicates that he came tantalizingly close. If he had looked beneath the pristine Caribbean waters, he might have spotted a biologically immortal (absence of a continuously rising rate of mortality as a result of increasing chronological age as stated by the Gompertz-Makeham law of mortality) jellyfish, the Turritopsis nutriculawhich with its gelatinous composition (96% water, 3% salt/other compounds, and 1% carbon and nitrogen), shiny, transparent bell shape and ability to revert back to a younger state, is a living fountain of youth.
However, it took until March 1992 when Giorgio Bavestrello, Christian Somner, and Michele Sará published Two-way conversion into Turritopsis nutricula that this living fountain of youth was uncovered. Unlike other jellyfish that usually die after spawning, Turritopsis nutriculaa tiny solitary organism that preys on shrimp water, microscopic plankton, zooplankton, and other tiny organisms, showed “a unique case of ontogeny (the development of an individual organism from embryo to adult) reversal.”
Turritopsis nutricula, which originated in the Caribbean (but spread throughout the world’s oceans) is currently the only known organism where transdifferentiation (the irreversible transformation of cells from one differentiated type to another) occurs on an organismal level although its individual parts, by themselves. , are incapable of regeneration. Besides Turritopsis nutricula transdifferentiation, the phenomenon that according to CDM Davey, Theory of Transdifferentiation (May 2, 2006) “is a very rare event in nature”, generally occurs at an organic level when certain organisms such as salamanders and salamanders regenerate missing parts. In short, while changing cell types occurs on rare occasions, usually when an organism regenerates an organ or part, it is an integral phase in Turritopsis nutricula life cycle
With its ability to reverse the aging process – returning from a mature adult stage to an immature polypostage (its first stage of life) an indefinite number of times based on experimental results that indicated a 100% transformation rate based on a sample of 4000. Turritopsis nutricula medusae collected from the Gulf of Naples in the western Mediterranean from June 1993-October 1994, regardless of exposure to adverse conditions or type of stress factor or absence thereof as reported by Stefano Piraino, Ferdinando Boero, Brigitte Aeschbach, and Volker Schmid in Reversing the Life Cycle: Jellyfish Transforming into Polyps and Cell Transdifferentiation in Turritopsis nutricula (Cnidaria, Hydrozoa) (Biological Bulletin, June 1996) – Turritopsis nutricula has no natural limit to its lifespan because it can effectively regenerate its entire body. Turritopsis nutricula basically uses transdifferentiation to deal with environmental stress factors (e.g. increase/reduction of water temperature, reduction of salinity (salt content), scarcity of food, and even aging (biological aging)) and to repair physical/internal damage (e.g. parts of its body especially its bell is pierced or severed) regardless of stage. In addition, Turritopsis nutricula also engages in transdifferentiation after sexual activity regardless if there are stress conditions.
Although Turritopsis nutricula transdifferentiation ability makes it biologically immortal, it is not naturally immortal in itself. Like all jellyfish, it is subject to predation and disease (especially during the immature plankton stage; therefore, the majority of those that succumb perish before the jellyfish (mature) stage). However, since the latter presents a reduced risk, the population of Turritopsis nutricula is currently rising unsupervised encouraging Maria Pia Miglietta, Ph.D. of the Smithsonian Tropical Marine Institute to declare, “We are looking at a global silent invasion.”
Life cycles of Jellyfish and Turritopsis nutricula:
The typical jellyfish has a finite lifespan ranging from a few hours for smaller species to several months or even years for larger species. From the moment of initiation, jellyfish typically experience aging with natural death ultimately resulting after dispersal. Turritopsis nutricula, on the other hand, avoids aging because transdifferentiation or returning back to a younger state enables it to maintain efficient DNA repair capabilities, retain high levels of antioxidants, and minimize production of free radicals (harmful oxidants that damage the cellular ability of an organism to respond to. homeostatic imbalances ( loss of balance), illness and other stress factors). By doing so, it avoids apoptosis or programmed cell death. Transdifferentiation, which is a critical part of Turritopsis nutricula life cycle is described below:
1. Eggs develop in gonads (located in the stomach walls) of a female Turritopsis nutricula.
2. Mature eggs are fertilized by sperm released in water columns by male Turritopsis nutricula.
3. Fertilized eggs develop into planar larvae that settle on the seabed and establish polyp colonies called hydroids. Each polyp depends on tiny feeding tubes for nutrition.
4. Each polyp then produces a medusa (jellyfish) bud.
5. Within a few days, the jellyfish (about 1 mm in diameter with eight evenly spaced tentacles) detach from the hydroid colony.
6. Within 18-30 days the jellyfish reach sexual maturity depending on the average water temperature (18-22 days for an average temperature of 72ºF; 25-30 days for an average temperature of 68ºF). Having reached maturity, Turritopsis nutricula jellyfish vary in size from approximately 4-5 mm and consist of between 80-90 tentacles.
7. Turritopsis nutricula then engages in reverse metamorphosis reversing or gradually contracting its bell with “intense DNA replication occurring in the cells of the exoumbrella, the endoderm of the radial canals and those of the subumbrella plate endoderm” by Reversing the Life Cycle: Jellyfish Transforming into Polyps and Cell Transdifferentiation in Turritopsis nutricula (Cnidaria, Hydrozoa) (Biological Bulletin, June 1996).
8. Its tentacles and meogloea (the middle layer) then shrink and are resorbed as Turritopsis nutricula regresses into a cyst or patch of tissue, settling on a substrate (a surface on which an organism grows or is attached).
9. Turritopsis nutricula jellyfish then produce stolons that develop into polyps within a few days to form another hydroid colony. Later, each polyp produces a medusa bud when the cycle restarts from step 4 only to be repeated again and again due to sexual activity or exposure to stress, the latter which increases DNA replication, a key prerequisite of the transdifferentiation process.
Scientists and geneticists are currently studying Turritopsis nutricula to discover its remarkable ability to reverse the aging process. Although the method Turritopsis nutricula uses remain unknown, the simplicity of the organism, genetic code (DNA could be structured to initiate a return to polystate when specific aging, biological or stress conditions are met based on changes in chemical composition that could act as a catalyst) potential partial (in which fusion) . of adult embryonic stem cells (ES) with pluripotent stem cells (PS) would like to play a role in transdifferentiation) or complete retention of pluripotency (in which its entire stem cell count would consist of PS cells) may play a role. Turritopsis nutricula Transdifferentiation capacity, however, does not only depend on stem cells. Instead, it is believed that interstitial (differentiating stem cells) along with differentiating secretory (exumbrella or bell), digestive/circulatory (gastrovascular), and/or striated muscle cells also play a role.
Are researchers finally unraveling the mystery of how Turritopsis nutricula engaged in transdifferentiation, the secret to biological immortality could be achieved by ending the millennia-long and often perceived Quixotic search for the fountain of youth. However, were such a development to occur, the range of socio-economic, demographic, generational and even ethical (would life expectancy be determined by government through euthanasia to respond to greater competition for limited, finite resources resulting from overpopulation?) issues that would ultimately have; treated would be staggering and perhaps impossible to resolve. Therefore, even if scientific research finally solves the mystery of this living fountain of youth, humanity may be, figuratively speaking, prohibited from drinking its waters in order to maintain socio-economic, generational and moral stability especially since the alternative could result in significant unintended consequences. this could even lead to Armageddon and human extinction.
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