Cryogenically Frozen "Water Bear" Brought Back To Life After 30 Years

Friday, 15 January 2016 - 3:31PM
Weird Science
Friday, 15 January 2016 - 3:31PM
A new world record has been made- by Japanese scientists who successfully revived a tardigrade (tiny, water-dwelling organism) that had been frozen for more than three decades, thus beating the previous record of nine years. But that's not even the most impressive part of their experiment. 

In the past, many observations about long-term survival have been done on "micrometazoans" - mini multi-cellular organisms. These organisms, which include nematodes, rotifers, and tardigrades (water bear), have been known to withstand extreme environmental conditions like freezing, oxygen deficiency, and extreme dryness. They do this by entering into a state called cryptobiosis, in which all metabolic processes stop, preventing reproduction, development, and repair. However, previous studies only examined their ability to survive these conditions, and provided little data on their recovery conditions, or their ability to reproduce after having undergone cryptobiosis.

Scientists Megumu Tsujimoto, Satoshi Imura, and Hiroshi Kanda actually recorded the long-term recovery of one egg and one fully-fledged tardigrade. In March 2014, the researchers pulled the frozen specimens out of storage and began the thawing process. They dubbed the adult tardigrade "SB-1" and described its journey to recovery:

Opening quote
"SB-1 first showed slight movement in its 4th pair of legs on the first day after rehydration. This progressed to twisting of the body from day 5 along with movement in its 1st and 2nd pair of legs, but the movements remained slow. After starting to attempt to lift itself on day 6, SB-1 started to slowly crawl on the agar surface of the culture well on day 9, and started to eat the algal food provided...on day 13."
Closing quote

After its two-week rehab period, it even managed to lay 19 eggs, of which 14 hatched. No anomalies were detected in the offspring. 

SB-1's extended recovery time means that these micrometazoans need some time to repair the damage accrued during cryptobiosis - but not even anything close to the amount of time they were "frozen." By studying these types of animals, scientists can learn more about how they are capable of withstanding the harshest conditions, and astrobiologists gain a greater understanding of what extraterrestrial life might look like. Advances in our understanding of cryptobiology could also lead to new insights into cryonics, and even have tangible consequences for the reanimation of humans.
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