Rotifers found still alive in Siberian ice after 24,000 years (surviving cryo)

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EXCERPTS: Life is starting to confuse us. One assumes that one is born and then one dies, and that cryo-preservation for possible resurrection some time in the future is the stuff of sci-fi. For you it is, at this point. But for the rotifer, a microscopic yet complex creature, that is life.

Bdelloid rotifers caught in the Siberian permafrost 24,000 years ago are still alive, Lyubov Shmakova, Stas Malavin and colleagues reported in the journal Current Biology on Monday.

“Our report is the hardest proof as of today that multicellular animals could withstand tens of thousands of years in cryptobiosis, the state of almost completely arrested metabolism,” stated Malavin of the Soil Cryology Laboratory at the Institute of Physicochemical and Biological Problems in Soil Science in Pushchino, Russia.

[...] All this was a tad surprising, perhaps; rotifers had been known to survive up to 10 years in ice, when kept at minus 20 to zero degrees Celsius (minus 4 degrees to 32 degrees Fahrenheit). The age of the rotifers thawed out of the permafrost was determined using radiocarbon dating of parallel organic material, at 24,000 years of age. The team notes that due to the nature of the ground, the rotifers were trapped in the permafrost at the same time as the organic material.

The team also noted that they performed experiments with the ancient rotifers and with modern ones to see how well they withstand (survive) being frozen and thawed. “The ancient Adineta sp. was more freeze resistant than its genetically closest relative,” they write.

OK. One problem with cryopreservation is that ice crystals forming as the cell freezes may burst membranes and cause other internal havoc. How the rotifers survived that remains unclear, but their experiments on subjecting the rotifers to ice regimens suggest that a gradual freezing process was key, the researchers say.

[...] Clearly the cryopreservation of mammals is still a fantasy, but that of rotifers, a multicellular animal with a gut, is not. “Of course, the more complex the organism, the trickier it is to preserve it alive frozen and, for mammals, it’s not currently possible. Yet, moving from a single-celled organism to an organism with a gut and brain, though microscopic, is a big step forward,” Malavin explained... (MORE - details)

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