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Russia Unearths Microorganisms Frozen for 24,000 Years

You ever watch that episode of “The X-Files” from the first season called “Ice?” You know, the one that was kind of like, “The Thing” with the extraterrestrial worm taking over people in an ice covered Alaskan geological station? Now we’re not saying that the following news item could be a per-cursor to that, but the whole thing reads a lot differently if you keep those events in mind. So, yeah, some Russian researchers dug up a couple frozen organisms from the Siberian permafrost and brought them back to life and now they’re even capable of multiplying.

Photo by Ian Sutton used under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0

Current Biology published that these creatures, known as Bdelloid rotifers, were revived after what could generously be defined as an extended hibernation. While microscopic, the animals are not single cell organisms and can possess identifiable features such as a mouth opening, teeth, and a foot gland. They are typically found in freshwater but can be uniquely adaptable to dry environments.

According to a report from CNN, previous research had shown that rotifers could be frozen for up to 10 years and emerge alive from that state. Clearly, 24,000 years is kind of a jump from there, showing just how durable these creatures can be. Even this is not unheard of though considering that nematodes, worm like creatures, have also been found frozen for more than 30,000 years and were successfully brought back to life.

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Photo by Juan Carlos Fonseca Mata used under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0

Anyone thinking that this could be a step towards science-fiction processes such as freezing one’s head to have it revived later or advanced cryonics shouldn’t start getting their hopes up though. One of the reasons why these rotifers can survive for so long is because they are relatively simple organisms without a lot of complicated biological systems. While it’s still unknown what the exact mechanisms are that allowed them to survive the permafrost, the hope is that further research will uncover that.

So truth to be told, this isn’t exactly like the science-fiction tales of a long extinct creature or virus ravaging the Earth, but maybe this knowledge could lead to things like being able to freeze and revive more complex organisms. Meaning we’re one step closer to creating Captain America.

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