Scientists have discovered that the tardigrade, moss piglet, or water bear, which is a creature that has outlived 99 percent of all Earth dwelling animals. It has a protein that when incorporated into human cells becomes a radiation-blocking protein reducing the damage to human DNA from X-rays by an impressive 40 percent, according to sciencealert.com.
In 2016 a team of scientists in Japan discovered what made the tardigrade so strong. They use a protein called Dsup which is short for “damage suspensor.”, according to nature.com. This protein could be used to create medicine that would help cure many human diseases, including cancer and aging. “highly interesting for medicine,” stated Ingemar Jönsson an evolutionary ecologist who studies tardigrades at Kristianstad University in Sweden.
Besides using dsup tardigrades also use an adaptation that allows tardigrades to live through these trying conditions. Their adaptation allows them to enter a dehydrated state that closely resembles death; this is called cryptobiosis.
When tardigrades go into cryptobiosis they turn into a dehydrated ball called a “tun.” These factors allow tardigrades to survive being frozen at -328 degrees Fahrenheit or heated to more than 300 degrees F, they are also capable of withstanding pressures as powerful as 6000 times that of the atmosphere stated smithsonianmag.com.
Without the protein and adaptations, tardigrades will still able to live up to 60 years but they will be fragile and easily killed. The protein blocks radiation and when in dehydrated the protein will turn the tardigrade into glass! On the other hand when the tardigrade turns into a tun it reduces its metabolic activity to as low as .01 percent of normal levels, and it can last in that form for decades or even longer states sciencealert.com.
The tardigrade according to livescience.com can range from 0.05 millimeters to 1.2 mm (0.002 to 0.05 inches) long, but they usually don’t get any bigger than 1 mm (0.04 inches) long. Tardigrades live mostly in damp habitats all across the world, such as lakes and ponds but some can be found in hot springs, on top of the Himalayas, and even under layers of solid ice, ocean sediments.