Immortality is an idea that has captured the minds of humans since the dawn of time. The drive to achieve this life beyond the restrictions of time is old as civilization. However, in the diverse world around us, there are already creatures who have managed to achieve the impossible, one being the hydra. With its namesake being the multi headed serpent from Greek mythology, you might not expect the real life hydra to be a scraggly polyp less than an inch long. While its appearance may be unassuming, its powers of regeneration and immortality are on par with the myths. Under controlled conditions, hydras showed no signs of aging. The death rate and fertility remained at a constant despite years passing. Other multicellular organisms exhibit higher death rates and lower fertility rates as old age takes hold but not these animals.
So what is their secret? A majority of the hydra is made up of stem cells. These cells are basically a jack of all trades with the ability to develop into any type of cell from muscles to neurons or replicate continuously. In humans, cells with such abilities are only found at the embryonic stage and are fittingly named embryonic stem cells. Hydras have access to these cells forever and renew all 100,000 cells in their body every 20 days. Biological miracles lie everywhere in this extraordinary world we live in holding secrets we can only dream of. Unlocking the mysteries of the hydra might be our key to redefining the boundaries of human longevity and rejuvenation.
Daniel Kim (September, 2023)