- Jaejeong & Jaeah Kim
We recently posted a sea anemone dissection video (which you can check out here), where we explained the anatomy & physiology of this fascinating marine animal. However, did you know that this seemingly simple invertebrate accomplished a biological marvel no human has even gotten close to? That’s right, sea anemones are immortal.
"As far as we know, these are immortal animals … They live a very long time - one was documented to have lived 100 years. They don't have old age. They live forever and proliferate, just getting bigger," stated Dan Rokhsar, professor of genetics at the University of California, Berkeley. According to scientists, unless an external cause (such as being eaten) kills the sea anemone, these animals are functionally immortal. Now if you thought that was weird, research shows that despite the fact that sea anemones live for so long, their cells do not mutate the way cells in other organisms and elderly humans do– Dr. Rokhsar stated "You should see tumors in these animals, but we have very few descriptions of that. They are constantly replenishing themselves without getting cancer.” Although scientists aren’t sure of the exact gene or biological pathway behind sea anemones’ functional immortality, they believe that it has something to do with the constant replacement of cells in the animals’ body. Sea anemones’ skin is only two layers thick, and sea anemones constantly shed cells & replaces them with new cells, so much so that research shows If you look at a “sea anemone today and compare it to a week later the same structure will be there but many of the cells will have been replaced."
Luckily, we might be able to have a piece of the pie as well. Sea anemones are much more closely related to humans than many would think, having many similarities in the way genes are structured and the way genomes are organized. However, we have memories, thoughts, emotions, and consciousness, making it impossible to directly apply the sea anemone’s regenerative immortality model to humans. But hey, scientists are hoping that further studies into the sea anemone’s genome and biological processes might provide valuable insight into how humans age and mutate. You never know, maybe these simple animals might unlock the key to human immortality in the future. Until then, carpe diem!
Photo credit: https://dtmag.com/thelibrary/tentacalizing-a-look-at-anemones/