Immortality Code Cracked: Scientists Solve Mystery of Jellyfish DNA

Sep 1, 2022

Thought Question: If you had the ability to live forever, what would be some of the benefits and drawbacks? 

Old age. Disease. Accidents. Life is filled with danger, and we can only avoid it for so long. But what if we didn't need to deal with aging? What if we could simply go back to our younger selves? That's exactly what Turritopsis dohrnii, the “immortal jellyfish,” does.

Researchers in Spain have figured out how the jellyfish pulls off this trick. They compared its DNA to a similar species. The other jellyfish doesn't have the ability to live forever. So, the scientists figured out which genes make the "immortal jellyfish" different. When it senses threats, the immortal jellyfish reabsorbs its tentacles. It becomes a polyp. That's the name of a jellyfish early in its life. From there, the jellyfish can repeat its life cycle. The process can go on forever.

The National History Museum of London explained that the immortal jellyfish is like "a butterfly which, instead of dying, would be able to transform back into a caterpillar and then (grow) into an adult butterfly once again."

The news has excited scientists, even though we have a long way to go to apply the findings to humans. Still, one author of the study says, “From this … we hope to find better answers to the many diseases associated with aging.”

Photo by Dr. Karen J. Osborn courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. 

The author’s purpose for writing this story is to _______. (Common Core RI.5.6; RI.6.6)
a. educate the reader about different types of species thought to be immortal
b. explain how jellyfish and butterflies have a similar life cycle
c. compare and contrast the DNA of a jellyfish to a human
d. inform the reader of new, exciting research connected to aging and rejuvenation
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