It might sound like something out of a Hollywood sci-fi movie: bringing a 46,000-year-old frozen worm back to life after being dug up in Siberia.
But that’s exactly what the scientists revealed they had done in a landmark study published yesterday.
Experts have managed to ‘resurrect’ a long-extinct roundworm from a hibernation-like state known as cryptobiosis, allowing it to survive the harsh freezing temperatures.
Previously, experts thought that roundworms could only stay in this state for less than 40 years, so the development was an eye-opening moment for the scientific world.
So how exactly did they do it? MailOnline reveals the step-by-step process that saw scientists revive the prehistoric Panagrolaimus kolymaensis, while also looking at whether something similar could be done for humans.
How scientists brought worms back to life
THE STEP BY STEP PROCESS
Step 1. Find the samples
The permafrost deposits were mined from the Duvanny Yar outcrop on the Kolyma River in northeastern Siberia.
(*Here I can have a picture of a grassy patch of ice as shown below and a locator map of the area)
Step 2. Defrost the ice
Two of more than 300 soil samples contained viable worms. These samples were kept at room temperature (20°C) for several weeks.
(*Here I can have a picture showing a petri dish on a lab work surface)
Step 3. Waking up the worms
As the ice melted, the scientists watched as the worms slowly emerged over time, awakening from their dormant state of cryptobiosis. This behavior is considered quite normal for worms that may have once woken up to the warm sun after being frozen all winter. However, prior to this study, scientists believed that roundworms could remain in this state for less than 40 years.
(*Here please can I have a zoomed in view of four worms moving around)
Step 4. Keep them alive
The scientists were able to keep the worms alive for just under a month — their average lifespan is up to 60 days. The worms were fed a human intestinal bacterium known as Escherichia coli and water to stay alive.
To start the research, the scientists had to seize the permafrost deposits that contain these Panagrolaimus kolymaensis worms.
The samples were taken from the Duvanny Yar outcrop on the Kolyma River in northeastern Siberia in 2018.
Only two of the more than 300 samples taken contained viable worms, one found in a fossilized squirrel burrow and another in a glacial deposit.
These were then kept in a laboratory for several years before the scientists embarked on the testing phase of their study.
They melted the samples by keeping them at room temperature (20 °C) in a Petri dish for several weeks.
As the ice slowly melted, the scientists began to watch the worms squirm and awaken from their dormant state of cryptobiosis.
Philipp Schiffer, co-author of the study, told MailOnline: ‘In general, you just need to thaw the soil, like you would a patch of garden soil that you dig up.
‘The worms thaw along with the soil and instantly start moving, wriggling, once thawed.
“In other words, this is not a long process, which makes sense since these organisms live in environments where they can normally be frozen for a long winter, not millennia, and then need to wake up and have babies as soon as the sun comes up.” . bright.’
Cryptobiosis is a state in which metabolic activity stops in response to extreme environmental conditions.
The ability isn’t just limited to worms, as brine, plant seeds, and even yeast can do it too.
Once the worms woke up, they were fed water and Escherichia coli, a strain of human intestinal bacteria, to stay alive.
Nematodes eat bacteria. Some bacteria will have been in the permafrost soil and will have provided initial food,” Schiffer said.
Could frozen humans come back to life?
While many of us dream of being frozen at the end of our lives and brought back at another time in the future, this is not yet a reality for humans.
Unlike these worms, humans cannot suffer from cryptobiosis, which implies a complete or almost complete shutdown of metabolic activity.
A group of worms extracted from the Siberian permafrost thawed and “came back to life”
The deposits were mined from the Duvanny Yar outcrop on the Kolyma River in northeastern Siberia in 2018.
Schiffer explained: ‘In evolutionary terms, it’s much more a question of where and how we live and how and where worms live.
“It wouldn’t make sense for humans to go into cryptobiosis, otherwise we might have evolved the ability.”
‘Nematodes are very small, they can’t run away from the cold, they can’t burrow deep into the ground, they don’t have blood (keeping them warm).
‘When conditions turn bad for them, they either die or need to “rest” in some way.
“These Panagrolaimus nematodes and other invertebrates such as rotifers and tardigrades have evolved to survive in extreme conditions through cryptobiosis as a way to survive such conditions.”
As a result, Schiffer believes that bringing a caveman ‘back to life’ is currently a ‘sci-fi dream alone’.
He added: ‘We should think more about a different aspect of the story here. These nematodes have found a way to protect their DNA and cells from breaking down or breaking down when frozen.
“Perhaps by studying the cryptobiosis process in detail, looking specifically at which genes do what, we can find some links to human aging and develop new drugs in this regard.”
READ MORE: Could WORMS Hide the Secret to Anti-Aging? Scientists extend the lifespan of a roundworm that is genetically similar to humans FIVE TIMES
Scientists have managed to extend the lifespan of a worm by 500 percent in a startling discovery that could hold the secret to anti-aging in humans.
Caenorhabditis elegans, a roundworm that shares genetic traits with humans, typically lives for three to four weeks.
By modifying a pair of cellular pathways, the US-China research team was able to engineer a worm that lived for more than 14 weeks, a five-fold increase.
This increase in life expectancy would be the equivalent of human life for about 400 to 500 years.
The discovery could lead to similar combination therapies for humans that prolong the aging process, in the same way that combination therapies are used today to treat cancer and HIV.
Caenorhabditis elegans is a transparent, free-living nematode or roundworm, approximately 0.03 inches (1 mm) in length.