Real-life hydra regrow their heads, new research details how

New research describes how real-life hydra can use epigenetics to regenerate their heads, rendering them effectively immortal.

Published Thu, Dec 9 2021 6:45 AM CST   |   Updated Tue, Jan 4 2022 12:21 AM CST

Hydras are a group of small aquatic animals capable of regenerating their heads, the mechanism for which has been uncovered in a new paper published in Genome Biology and Evolution.

Real-life hydra regrow their heads, new research details how 01 |

Hydras come from the same family of animals consisting of roughly ten thousand species that fall into two major groups, Anthozoa and Medusozoa. Anthozoa comprises sea anemones, corals, and sea pens, while Medusozoa comprises sea wasps, jellyfish, and hydra. Hydras live in temperate, tropical environments, and their stem cells have the capacity for unlimited self-renewal, lending them biological immortality.

Researchers have found multiple genes associated with head regeneration for hydra but have yet to understand the regulatory networks responsible for regeneration in hydras and other regenerating species. Researchers found that epigenetics, changes in gene expression in response to environmental changes, were responsible for regeneration.

They found multiple regulatory elements within the genome that cellular machinery remodeled during regeneration to allow transcription factors to access the necessary DNA. Interestingly, the researchers found that the processes enabling head regeneration were different from those that grow the head initially, despite the same end product.

"Even though the result is the same (a Hydra head), gene expression is much more variable during regeneration. Accompanying dynamic gene expression is dynamic chromatin remodeling at sites where developmental transcription factors bind. These findings suggest that complex developmental enhancers were present before the Cnidaria and Bilateria split," said Aide Macias-Munoz, the paper's lead author.

You can read more from the paper here.

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Adam grew up watching his dad play Turok 2 and Age of Empires on a PC in his computer room, and learned a love for video games through him. Adam was always working with computers, which helped build his natural affinity for working with them, leading to him building his own at 14, after taking apart and tinkering with other old computers and tech lying around. Adam has always been very interested in STEM subjects, and is always trying to learn more about the world and the way it works.

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