Water is crucial for life. Or so we are told. Some organisms, it turns out, have a remarkable ability to survive near complete dehydration - a feat known as anhydrobiosis or “life without water.” There is the resurrection plant, brine shrimps, nematode worms and baker’s yeast. Or take a class of microscopic animals known as tardigrades - commonly known as water bears - which live in thin films of water present in soil, mosses, leaves, and more. “They live in water and when where they live dries up, they dry up,” says John Crowe, a biologist at the University of California, Davis, who has been studying anhydrobiosis for four decades. But they don’t die - instead, they can remain in a state of suspended animation for decades, and when they’re rehydrated, they spring right back to life.
While these remarkable resurrections are interesting curiosities in their own right, they have also inspired a wave of potentially life-saving applications. Now, scientists and start-ups are beginning to copy these creatures’ tricks to preserve critical lifesaving compounds, such as vaccines, DNA and stem cells. They hope to extend the shelf life of these substances from mere days to months or even years, transforming medicine everywhere from rural Africa to the battlefield.
Via Miguel Prazeres