Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Scientists freeze and resurrect flies

By discovering how some small animals are able to withstand body temperatures below zero centigrade, scientists have found a way to freeze fruit flies and resurrect them afterwards. By feeding them a specific diet, researchers from a Czech research institute made the animals, which normally are quite susceptible to cold environments, overcome temperatures that caused part of their blood to freeze. The experiments could aid us in finding ways of preserving ourselves when exposed to cold temperatures.

The trick of letting fruit flies overcome cold is to feed them proline. It is an amino acid, normally a building block of proteins, which has extraordinary capabilities when it comes to preservation. The scientists found that, when fruit flies are fed with a proline-rich diet, they were much better able to handle a freezing test. Normally, only 6 percent of the animals are able to survive the test set up in the lab. However, with a proline-rich diet, this percentage went up to 61 percent.
Shutting down
Having enough proline in your system is not enough to overcome cold temperatures. Chemical processes in your body need a certain temperature to function properly. When the body temperature is too low, these processes need to shut down. Some organisms contain a hibernation functionality, which makes them cease all activity during harsh conditions. Especially bacteria are quite well adapted to survive extreme living conditions. Some species have the capability to revert to a 'spore' state, that uses almost no energy, and thus has no need for extensive metabolism or feeding.

It is too simple to assume that proline will save us when we are stuck in a place with extremely low temperatures. But discovering how certain animals protect their bodily structures from damage when it's so cold that their blood freezes, is a good start. The Czech scientists have also revealed that regulation during cold temperatures does not necessarily have to be complex: in fruit flies, all it took was getting them into a dormant state and feed them enough proline. We might be able to use this knowledge in order to develop strategies of human preservation during the unfortunate event of being stuck in the cold. That will require some more effort, especially because humans don't quite have a dormant state; sleep does not count as our metabolism is not slowed down dramatically. 

No comments:

Post a Comment