The Fountain of Youth, Philosopher’s Stone and the Holy Grail were all believed to grant eternal life.
But researchers have discovered a group of tiny organisms that could have the same immortal capabilities.
A recent study observed thousands of hydras in a laboratory and discovered these creatures have the ability to escape the aging process.
Hydras are 0.4 inch invertebrates made of mostly stem cells, which researchers suggest helps them live longer lives.
‘Most of the hydra’s body is made of stem cells with very few fully differentiated cells’, said Daniel Martínez, a biologist at Pomona College, in a statement.
‘Stem cells have the ability to continually divide, and so a hydra’s body is being constantly renewed.’
‘The differentiated cells of the tentacles and the foot are constantly being pushed off the body and replaced with new cells migrating from the body column.’
In 1998, researchers from Pomona College monitored these creatures for four years and found no indication of aging.
The team measured the senescence of the Hydras in order to determine how much they aged over the years, which was defined as an increased rate of death and a decline in fertility that comes with aging.
After the four years, the researchers could not clearly state if the animal’s fertility declined with age, which indicated there was no deterioration over the years.
‘When I started experiments in graduate school, the dogma at the time was that animals should not be able to escape aging, all animals should age,’ explains Martínez.
‘When I started my studies, I wanted to prove that hydra could not escape aging but after four years of basically detecting no mortality, I was convinced that hydra would not age and I published my paper in 1998.’
Recently Martinez performed another study that aimed to duplicate the previous one, but on a larger scale.
The latest works observed 2,256 hydra in the labs at Pomona College and MPIDR over eight years, which is two times longer than the first study.
In the labs, researchers recreated little oasis for the hydras and gave them fresh water three times a week and fed them fresh brine shrimp.
‘I do believe that an individual hydra can live forever under the right circumstances,’ said Martínez.
‘The chances of that happening are low because hydra are exposed to the normal dangers of the wild – predation, contamination, diseases.’
‘I started my original experiment wanting to prove that hydra could not have escaped aging.’
‘My own data has proven me wrong – twice.’
At the end of the study, Martinez reported the death rates of all the specimens were constant and very low.
The results showed there was one death per 167 hydras each year and 80 percent of the specimens’ death rate remained constant, no matter their age and fertility.
The other 20 percent fluctuated up and down, and the team believed this was because they were working with fabricated conditions.
In the first study, Martínez noted there was a lot of ‘noise’ regarding the fertility of hydra over time.
This recent study provided stronger evidence that these tiny organisms are immortality as it showed no signs of mortality and there was constant fertility over the eight years.