Some samples of Siberian permafrost, frozen for the past 40,000 years, were just melted to reveal living nematodes, a species of roundworms. In only a couple of weeks, the worms began to eat and crawl around setting the world’s record for how fast an animal could recover cryogenic preservation. The discovery might prove helpful for own tissues cryogenic preservation.
Russian scientists took over 300 Siberian permafrost samples from different periods of Earth’s history and took them to a lab in Moscow for closer examination. The units took from the northeastern part of Siberia contained nematodes which scientists placed in Petri jars in a nutrient substance and at 20 degrees Celsius.
Even though the contamination is not yet ruled out, the Russian biologists think they’ve respected all the sterility procedures. Also, the Siberian permafrost samples with roundworms inside them were dug up from 5 meters deep in the earth, while the seasonal thawing only melts the permafrost from up to 80 centimeters in underground.
The discovery that roundworms frozen for 40,000 years in Siberian permafrost came back to life might lead to new cryogenic preservation technologies
Overall, finding organisms that revive is not a new thing. In 2000, for example, researchers found bacteria spores within 250 million years old salt crystals and brought them back to life.
Also, roundworms were revived from 39-year-old herbarium samples more recently.
However, nothing compares with this discovery the Russian scientists made and its possible applications in human tissue cryogenic preservation. In this regard, studying the nematodes’ mechanisms to reduce the damaging effects of freezing and limit the DNA oxidation over thousands of years might help scientists come up with new technologies for cryogenic preservation which might prove useful to preserve living human tissues over long periods.
On the other hand, such experiments rise some worryings as some of the long-disappeared organisms, including bacteria and fungi, might also come back to life and their revival effects on the ecosystems could not be known.