Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Have A Fire Extinguisher Ready For Your Brain

I would normally use the links I'm about to discuss in a Friday Links post, but they're both so remarkable that I'm going to make an exception.

Dan Holmes sent me the first link, which is an article about "immortal" jellyfish. Here's an excerpt:
The Turritopsis Nutricula is able to revert back to a juvenile form once it mates after becoming sexually mature.

...Turritopsis Nutricula is technically known as a hydrozoan and is the only known animal that is capable of reverting completely to its younger self.

It does this through the cell development process of transdifferentiation.

Scientists believe the cycle can repeat indefinitely, rendering it potentially immortal.

While most members of the jellyfish family usually die after propagating, the Turritopsis nutricula has developed the unique ability to return to a polyp state.

Having stumbled upon the font of eternal youth, this tiny creature which is just 5mm long is the focus of many intricate studies by marine biologists and geneticists to see exactly how it manages to literally reverse its aging process.


That's so mind-blowing that I don't even know what to write. Just the premise alone could spawn hundreds of bad teen comedies.

There's a more detailed description of what's actually happening here.

I don't know about you, but finding out that immortality actually exists creates all kinds of complicated emotions inside me. I mean, I don't want to be immortal (unless I'm guaranteed that at some point in the future, EA loses the exclusive license to make NFL games), but we've all read so many science fiction books about immortality, and to find out that it's actually real--it's both thrilling and entirely unsettling.

The second article is from Daily Tech:
Scientists have for the first time cloned an extinct animal, the Pyrenean ibex, a form of wild mountain goat. The really spectacular thing about this cloning effort is that it was done using only DNA from skin samples.

Wow. And wow again.

Here's more:
While cloning a dinosaur is highly improbable due to DNA's chemical tendency to rapidly break apart to the point where it cannot be sequenced, this new breakthrough paves the way for cloning of both endangered species, and extinct species with fully sequenced genomes, such as Neanderthals or, likely soon, the Woolly Mammoth. However, this new work also highlights the extreme challenge ahead in trying to establish a sustainable population of a cloned animal, or even clones that live to reach adulthood.

Man, a cloned Neanderthal could save GEICO a shitload of money.

I really want to see a cloned wooly mammoth. I can't even explain why, but I do want to see one, and desperately.

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