How hydras regenerate their own heads

They’re small aquatic animals. They are able to change the way their genes are regulated. How is this possible? One investigation addressed the question: How do hydras regenerate their own heads? How close are these animals to immortality?

How do hydras regenerate their own heads?
How do hydras regenerate their own heads?

Always renewing themselves

They belong to the group of animals consisting of about 10,000 species divided into two major groups. Anthozoa (The first is made up of sea anemones, corals, and sea pens. It is called Anthozoa. The second is the Medusozoa. There are the sea wasps, jellyfish and hydras. Hydras, which live in temperate and tropical regions, are believed to be biologically immortal. Their stem cells have an unlimited capacity for self-renewal.

Whole-body regeneration occurs in a few animal species. The mechanism driving hydra head regeneration is not fully understood. Previous studies found evidence for regulation by multiple developmental pathways. Now, researchers found genes associated with this regeneration.

It was laborious work. They first examined 27,137 active elements in the regenerating organism or tissue. The research was published in Genome Biology and Evolution. It says that regulatory elements are remodeled during head regeneration. The work identifies regulatory elements for the first time. They are specific candidates of the genome that changes during hydra head regeneration. How do hydras regenerate their own heads? They turn genes on or off as needed!

Because of its abilities, the hydra is considered an immortal vertebrate.
Because of its abilities, the hydra is considered an immortal vertebrate.

Immortal or near-immortal

“There is one exciting finding from this work. Head regeneration and budding programs in hydras are quite different.” The paper’s lead author, Aide Macias-Muñoz, points out.

“The result is the same (a hydra head). But gene expression is much more variable during regeneration. The activation or non-activation of genes involves dynamic chromatin remodeling. What do these findings suggest? That developmental enhancer complexes were present before the division of Cnidaria and Bilateria.”

Bottom line? Hydras have on and off buttons in their genes. And they are capable of doing so almost indefinitely.

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