Flatworm Travels to Space With One Head, Comes Back With Two

By Nathaniel Scharping | June 13, 2017 2:57 pm
The "double-headed worm from space." (Credit: Junji Morokuma/Tufts University)

The “double-headed worm from space.” Look for the googly eyes. (Credit: Junji Morokuma/Tufts University)

Researchers have been sending animals to space for decades, and the growing roster includes everything from dogs and monkeys to scorpions and jellyfish. But a more recent animal space traveler returned to Earth with something never before seen: an extra head.

The newly bi-cranial creature is a flatworm of the species Dugesia japonica, one of 15 flown above the International Space Station for five weeks by Tufts University researchers. The flatworms were cut in half before being launched to study their unique regenerative abilities. Severing a flatworm usually just results in two identical flatworms, but something appears to have gone awry in one individual, who returned with another head where his tail should have been.

Well Hello There

This behavior has been observed before in the species, but it’s exceedingly rare — the Tufts researchers say they’ve never seen it happen before, even after 18 years of working with a colony that now contains over 15,000 flatworms. Even more intriguing, the mutant flatworm kept on making two-headed copies of itself as it further divided, indicating that it wasn’t a freak mutation but a true change in the invertebrates’ physiological makeup.

The 14 other flatworms that experienced the unique stresses of outer space experienced fundamental changes as well, although none so noticeable. The researchers observed them for 20 months after their return and found changes in their behavior when exposed to light and in the content of their microbiomes as compared to control flatworms kept on Earth.

Growing in Space is Weird

In a paper published Tuesday in the journal Regeneration, the researchers propose that the absence of both gravitational and magnetic fields in space could have something to do with the dramatic transformation. Previous research into flatworms has indicated that Earth’s magnetic field influences how the basic structure of their cells grows, and the microgravity aboard the ISS could be affecting everything from gene expression to how ion channels within their bodies communicate. These effects likely extend beyond flatworms as well, meaning that this kind of research is highly informative for future human missions.

We already know that astronauts experience significant physical changes when in space: bones and muscles atrophy, eyesight can falter, blood thins and the sense of taste is diminished. Long-term issues could include vision impairment, heart disease and more, although further study is still needed. Ongoing tests of astronaut Scott Kelly, who spent nearly a year in space, and his twin brother who remained on Earth could reveal additional long-term effects of space travel.

The researchers hope that the flatworm experiment marks only the first of many such research projects. Because they were unable to control for every variable, such as temperature differences during the flight and the stresses of takeoff and landing, they plan to conduct further experiments to pin down the exact mechanisms that affect flatworm physiology in space. In addition, their two-headed worm represents a sample size of just one. To truly scientifically validate their finding, they’ll need to replicate their results.

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  • http://www.mazepath.com/uncleal/qz4.htm Uncle Al

    We’ve done it: the pushmi-pullyu! How does it reach consensus?

    If you go into space you get radiation cataracts, 95% incidence – and that inside Earth’s ionopshere. 90 rads/year interplanetary. Lifetime dose allowed asstronaughts is 100 rads. LD50 acute is 400 rads.

    10 CFR Part 20
    USNRC
    Subpart C–Occupational Dose Limits
    § 20.1201 Occupational dose limits for adults.
    § 20.1206(e)(2)
    Radiation worker whole body exposure limit is 5 rads/year

  • http://brainout.net/frankforum/index.php brain out

    Friend of mine in twitter and I are playing with an alternate explanation of life’s origins which like all other explanations, won’t prove/disprove the God question but would provide a potential unity between EUT and GR.

    For that to work, LIGHT has to be always existing, and its FREQUENCY somehow ends up causing the existence of MASS.

    So this EXTRA HEAD might in some manner betray that hypothesis as potentially valid.

    I’m @brainouty and my friend is @Clay_Odem if you want to see the batting-abouts we’ve done.

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    • http://www.mazepath.com/uncleal/qz4.htm Uncle Al

      “For that to work, LIGHT has to be always existing, and its FREQUENCY somehow ends up causing the existence of MASS.”

      Az di bobe vot gehat beytsim volt zi geven mayn zeyde.
      Do you have three grandfathers?

      • http://brainout.net/frankforum/index.php brain out

        Actually, I do. What does that have to do with anything?

      • TLongmire

        wenn Sie geprüft wernt und duoch was würden Sie wählen mit Bromwasserstoffsäure zuerst zu tun.

  • UncleCharley

    Despite the whoop-la of going to Mars, radiation is space is a very real threat.

  • Line Llao

    L’apesanteur aura déconnecté et désorienté la représentation mentale interne de l’animal, fonction rétablissant la reproduction de la morphologie des organes et des organes vitaux, en l’animal et l’Homme. L’absence de repères gravitationnels, peut engendrer rapidement, une perte de l’identité morphologique et de son horloge cyclique interne, donc les méioses cellulaires perdent leurs repères géographiques du corps et de sa représentation somatique, ajouté à la perte sensorielle de leur emplacement corporel.
    La notion de haut/bas, tête/pieds, aura disparu dans le sphérique de l’atmosphère en apesanteur.

  • Line Llao

    The weightlessness disconnected and disoriented the internal mental representation of the animal, function restoring the reproduction of the morphology of the vital organs and organs, in the animal and the Man. The absence of gravitational markers can rapidly lead to a loss of the morphological identity and its internal cyclic clock, so the cellular meiosis loses its geographical markings of the body and its somatic representation, added to the sensory loss of their body location .
    The notion of top / bottom, head / feet, will have disappeared in the spherical atmosphere in weightlessness.

  • Line Llao

    Le système sanguin et lymphatique pouvant s’en trouver affecté, et ne retrouvant les circuits habituels en zone de gravitation terrestre, et donc le sang, les lymphes, pouvant stagner dans les canaux lymphatiques, sanguins, voire sans une adaptation physique rapide, due à un entraînement régulier sportif, les fonctions de la circulation sanguine et des lymphes pouvant définitivement se perdre, ou s’entraver si une adaptation mutagène sur questionnement mental fréquent assez pour s’ancrer dans la mutation génétique humaine et animale, ne trouve à temps dans un créneau de mutation donné, une solution adaptée au milieu antigravitationnel, circulation lente, ou quasi inexistante. Autant que chez méduses et certaines espèces marines, vivant en moindre gravitation terrestre.

  • Line Llao

    As the blood and lymphatic system may be affected, and can not find the usual circuits in the gravitational zone of the earth, and thus the blood and the lymphs, can stagnate in the lymphatic and blood canals, or even without a rapid physical adaptation due to A regular sports training, the functions of the blood circulation and the lymphs being permanently lost, or being hindered if a mutagenic adaptation on mental questioning frequents enough to be anchored in the human and animal genetic mutation, finds in time in a A mutated slot, a solution adapted to the antigravitation environment, slow circulation, or almost non-existent. As much as in jellyfish and some marine species, living in less terrestrial gravitation.

  • Line Llao

    Selon également le type d’irradiations de rayonnements cosmiques subis, et influences de projections de plasma, infimes, cumulées dans le corps, la mutation d’adaptation régulatrice se fera en fonction d’une plus grande force circulatoire des fluides ou son inverse, une moindre puissance de projection des fluides dans leurs circuits, adaptant la tension et pression (cardiaque, cérébrale, lymphatique, sanguine) de ces fluides à la pression atmosphérique des lieux de vie dans l’espace, des spationautes afin de résister à l’antigravitation, aux influences et effets de la composition gazeuse, minérale, organique des planètes à proximité, et la composition alimentaire des humains, et espèces spationautes, sans toutefois devoir finir en mollusques.

  • Line Llao

    According to the type of irradiations of cosmic rays undergone, and influences of plasma projections, minute, cumulated in the body, the mutation of regulatory adaptation will be made according to a greater circulatory force of the fluids or its inverse one Adapting the tension and pressure (cardiac, cerebral, lymphatic, blood) of these fluids to the atmospheric pressure of places of life in space, of spationautes in order to resist antigravity, Influences and effects of the gaseous, mineral composition of the planets in the vicinity, without however having to end up in molluscs.

  • TechnologyGuy

    The n-dimensional genomic map of all viable creatures includes some very bizarre inhabitants
    Maybe not so much a mutation here as that low gravity and other factors pushed the catalog selection onto this odd one
    Return to normal gravity and other factors will likely make it unsuccessful and deselect it

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