The Dr. Manhattan of the Animal Kingdom Can Reassemble After Being Blown Up

Tuesday, 15 July 2014 - 10:22AM
Tuesday, 15 July 2014 - 10:22AM
The Dr. Manhattan of the Animal Kingdom Can Reassemble After Being Blown Up

In the graphic novel Watchmen, the character Dr. Manhattan is torn to pieces in an explosion, and then reassembles over several months. The hydra, a tiny freshwater organism, can perform the same remarkable feat in a matter of hours.

 

Hydras can be shredded to bits, pureed, annihilated, etc, but then the microscopic pieces will begin crawling towards each other and multiple cell mounds will begin to take shape within 24 hours. Within 96 hours, whole new organisms will have grown from the remains, like a phoenix rising out of ashes. 

 

[Credit: Ulrich Technau/PNAS]

 

The secret to this ability to reassemble is the hydra's head. While hydras don't have brains per se, their head cells give instructions to the rest of the cells, so as long as 5-20 of the head cells remain intact after the organism explodes or is eaten by predators, the organism can reassemble.

 

However, since we do not have a centralized organizing body, the implications for human regeneration are somewhat limited. Unfortunately, we may never be able to survive being blown to pieces, but that likely won't stop us from trying.

Science
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