Studying Hydra Reveals New Insights on Regeneration

There are a lot of myths and misconception about how regeneration happens at different levels. A new study looking at the invertebrate organisms known as hydra attempts to deconstruct some of these. Hydra are capable of regrowing their entire bodies from just a small sample of their tissue.


Learning Regeneration from an Immortal Organism

Hydra can continue to regrow themselves, and this can go on forever. Their secrets to regeneration and long life were the subject of a new study recently published in Science. These small invertebrate creatures are shaped like tubes. They have a mouth circled by tentacle-like features. They also have a sticky foot. Although they are not the most complex of organisms, their ability to regrow their damaged organs, as well as their whole bodies, is a marvel indeed.

Hydra are found in freshwater. Their ability to regenerate themselves comes from the specialized groups of stem cells that they have. Scientists in the study looked at the genes in these specific cells that are turned on, allowing the stem cells to develop into other cells. In this way, the hydra’s other tissues and nerves can be formed from a small sample of hydra tissue.

Hydra genes are not very different from those of other organisms, but they are able to do some amazing things with what they have. a developmental biologist at the University of California, Celina Juliano, and her colleagues worked on the hydra study. They examined almost 25,000 hydra cells to learn more about the genes which were active in each of the cells.

What they found left them quite amazed. Hydra is able to completely regenerate its entire bodies every 20 days. The research team watched the process of gene activity through the development of stem cells into more specialized cells in the adult hydra.

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