Tardigrade proteins can slow aging in humans.

Science Daily reminds us again of the charms of the humble, unkillable water bear, the tardigrade, a creature that can withstand nearly anything and just keep on going: dehydration, radiation, extremes in temperature, even the vacuum of space. Well, according to research done at the University of Wyoming, proteins tardigrades use to enter and leave states of suspended animation can also prolong storage of stem cells, improve human burn treatments, and even slow the aging process:

“Amazingly, when we introduce these proteins into human cells, they gel and slow down metabolism, just like in tardigrades,” [Senior Research Scientist Silvia] Sanchez-Martinez says. “Furthermore, just like tardigrades, when you put human cells that have these proteins into biostasis, they become more resistant to stresses, conferring some of the tardigrades’ abilities to the human cells.”

Importantly, the research shows that the whole process is reversible: “When the stress is relieved, the tardigrade gels dissolve, and the human cells return to their normal metabolism,” [Molecular Biology Assistant Professor Thomas] Boothby says.

“Our findings provide an avenue for pursuing technologies centered on the induction of biostasis in cells and even whole organisms to slow aging and enhance storage and stability,” the researchers concluded.

You can read more of the tardigrade research here, in Protein Science.