Scientists revive worm that was frozen for 46,000


Scientists have revived a worm that spent the last 46,000 years in a frozen state in Siberian permafrost.

This is according to new research published in the journal PLOS Genetics.

Teymuras Kurzchalia, professor emeritus at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics in Dresden in Germany and one of the scientists involved in the research, said the female roundworm, which belongs to previously unknown species, survived 40 meters (131.2 feet) below the surface in the Siberian permafrost in a dormant state known as cryptobiosis.

Organisms in a cryptobiotic state can endure the complete absence of water or oxygen and withstand high temperatures, as well as freezing or extremely salty conditions.

Kurzchalia explained that such organisms remain in a state “between death and life,” in which their metabolic rates decrease to an undetectable level.

“One can halt life and then start it from the beginning. This a major finding,” he told CNN.

Philipp Schiffer, group leader at the Institute for Zoology at the University of Cologne and one of the authors of the study, told the Washington Post that the work may reveal more about how, at a molecular level, animals can adapt as habitats shift because of soaring global temperatures and changing weather patterns.

“We need to know how species adapted to the extreme through evolution to maybe help species alive today and humans as well,” said Schiffer.

Schiffer further told the Washington Post that to revive the creatures, researchers thaw the soil, taking care to not warm it too quickly to avoid cooking the nematodes. The worms then start wriggling around, eating bacteria in a lab dish and reproducing.

The Washington Post reported that the original 46,000-year-old nematode which was revived is no longer alive, but scientists have continued to raise more than 100 generations from this single nematode.

“The species reproduces without a mate through a process called parthenogenesis,” reported the Washington Post.