Is it possible to live forever?
Cheating death is very often the focus of our favorite Netflix series, Xbox game or book. But the real mind-blower is that immortality really exists.
Our only immortal species, to date, is a tiny transparent jellyfish that goes by the name of "Turritopsis Dohrni". Fully grown it's only 4.5mm long, which is smaller than your little fingernail.
I should start by, potentially bursting your bubble, and saying it is possible to kill this tiny jellyfish. They do suffer from diseases and can often be eaten by larger sea creatures, and once they're in another creature's stomach they arent able to stay true to their reputation.
Despite this, they still hold the biggest immortality secret that I've ever come across.
Scientists discovered that when the Turritopsis Dohrnii "dies" (usually of an injury) it sinks to the ocean floor and begins to decay. Amazingly, it reverses the aging process, just like Benjamin Button, and in about three days its cells then clump back together into polyps. (Polyps are pretty similar to tiny sea anemones). Some types of polyps form huge shrub-like bushes, and when the conditions are right the polyps bloom. And incredibly, tiny new baby jellyfish bud from these polyps! All of the new jellyfish are identical clones to the previous jellyfish.
The Jellyfish rise from their own ashes!!
Normally you'd expect jellyfish of their size to die after around 3 years, but with T.Dohrnii returning to the young polyp stage, at the moment it's impossible to know their true lifespan.
So how does this jellyfish rise from its own ashes? What's going on?
Essentially, the jellyfish changes the state of its own cells. All of it's cells are able to turn back the biological clock and become younger versions of themself or other cells. Theoretically, this process can go on forever, meaning this jellyfish is known as 'biologically immortal'.
Many scientists have proven that all stages of the jellyfish's life, from newly released to fully mature jellyfish can transform back into polyps under the right conditions - such as starvation, a sudden temperature change, or injury.
They can literally bypass death.
The only trick is, they aren't able to transform back into polyps if they are eaten (they cant regenerate in a stomach) and if they are out of water - but hey, why would they need to if they're on land they won't survive anyway.
This story gets even better when you look at the jellyfish genes. Even though their genetic makeup is much less complex than ours, scientists believe they may have held onto some of our ancient genetics. Trust me, this is exciting because once we understand the regeneration process of how these tiny jellyfish bypass death, it could be possible to experiment with this in human cells.
The ultimate goal for any scientist studying these jellyfish is to understand evolution and life, and the more we find out about these little creatures, the closer to immortality we can get...