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22 April 2010 / Liz Johns

The Doctor Who Of The Deep Sea – The Jellyfish That Never Dies

So you thought it was only Time Lords who could regenerate and live forever, leaving us earthly mortals to struggle with the inevitablility of lost youth and eventual death. But stand aside Doctor Who, you’re not the only one to have the power of immortality. Meet the Turritopsis Nutricula. No it’s not a new Doctor Who enemy, it’s a jellyfish. A jellyfish that never dies.

Dipping a tentacle into the Fountain of Youth

This unique deep-sea creature differs from other jellyfish, and all other creatures currently known, as it has the ability to rejuvenate itself after its adult phase comes to an end becoming once more a juvenile polyp. This tiny hydrozoan (it’s only about 4-5 mm across) has dipped its tentacle into the fountain of youth and has broken the golden rule of life – that everything must die. At the present stage of research, scientists believe that this regeneration can continue indefinitely. (Whereas Doctor Who only has twelve new lives.)

The key to the Turritopsis recycling is cell transdifferentiation. Simply speaking, at regeneration time, some cells are altered and transformed into new cells effectively reversing the ageing process. The adult jellyfish transforms into a new youthful jellyfish.

If scientists ever manage to recreate that activity in the lab, imagine how popular that face cream is going to be.

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