The microscopic bdelloid rotifer—best known as an all-females species that hasn’t had sex for 100 million years—has thwarted the attempts of Eugene Gladyshev and Matthew Meselson to mutate their genes with blasts of gamma radiation. Although the radiation shattered their genomes—it was a far higher dose than had ever been tolerated by an animal to date—the plucky, resourceful gals sewed their chromosomes back together and not only survived the blasts but continued to reproduce.
Bdelloids employ this same resilience in the face of another type of dry spell—they are known to repair their genes, survive, and reproduce even after complete desiccation. The authors believe that they used a similar trick to shrug off the massive radiation doses, and they hope to learn how humans can resist similar gene breakage due to free radicals, a bugbear that’s implicated in cancer and aging.
Image Credit: Diego Fontaneto