African Midge’s Ability to Survive Extreme Conditions May Provide Clues to Better Long-Term Storage and More Successful Transport of Sensitive Biological Materials

New collaborative research published online on September 12, 2014 in an open-access article in the journal Nature Communications by scientists from Japan, Russia, and the United States contains the genetic analysis of a species of African midge, which can survive a wide array of extreme conditions, including large variations in temperature, extreme drought, and even airless vacuums such as space. The team successfully deciphered the genetic mechanism that makes the midge invulnerable to these harsh conditions. Professor Noriyuki Satoh and Dr. Takeshi Kawashima of Professor Satoh’s Marine Genomics Unit, as well as Professor Alexander Mikeyhev of the Ecology and Evolution Unit, and Mr. Manabu Fujie and Dr. Ryo Koyanagi of the DNA Sequencing Section at the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University have contributed to the collaboration. The midge, Polypedilum vanderplanki (image), is capable of anhydrobiosis, a unique state that allows an organism to survive even after losing 97% of its body water. Anhydrobiotic organisms are also able to survive other severe conditions such as extreme temperatures ranging from 90°C to -270°C, vacuums, and high doses of radiation; all of which would be lethal to most other life forms. The midge found in northern Nigeria lives in an environment where the dry season lasts for at least six months and droughts can last up to eight months. By the time eggs have hatched and larvae have developed, the pools of water they breed in have dried up. However, these dried larvae can survive in this dehydrated state for more than 17 years. “This is a very interesting kind of phenomena,” remarks Professor Satoh.
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