Tardigrades in Detail
by Maryam Clark, PhD student at UCL
About Maryam Clark
I graduated from UCL in 2016 with a degree and masters in Cell Biology. I'm super interested in research and brain development. Therefore, I decided to do a PhD in Developmental Neurobiology with Professor Stephen Price where I study the question of how brain cells know where to go and set up neural circuits when an embryonic brain is growing. I hope to obtain a post-doctoral position in academia or industry where I can do more research and hopefully lead my own group someday, although I’m going to keep an open mind to other opportunities too! My hobby is illustrating and I drew the images in this project.
The problem of preserving sensitive biological materials (be that cells, living tissue or even vaccines) for long periods of time is a massive one and scientists all over the world are trying to figure out alternative solutions. In 2017, Dr Thomas Boothby and colleagues at the university of North Carolina conducted a study on tardigrades and their ability to survive extreme heat to try and solve the problem. In the video below, you’ll learn the molecular biology and experimental designs Boothby and colleagues used and designed to figure out the exact protein tardigrades use as a cryoprotectant to survive those extreme conditions and how they applied that mechanism to other sensitive biological molecules and systems.
A short video on Tardigrades
By the end of this video you should have learnt:
- What tardigrades are and their ability to survive desiccation
- The problem of preservation with live tissue and other protein-based sensitive biological materials
- The study by Dr Thomas Boothby and colleagues carried out in 2017 and how they discovered the mechanisms behind tardigrade survival
- An example of how scientists can use tools such as RNA sequencing, RNAi and Gene Editing to probe molecular systems and apply them to real world problems
MediaCentral Widget Placeholderhttps://mediacentral.ucl.ac.uk/Player/aghGiJGi
“I was always that kid that was outside collecting things, but I don’t think I met a “real scientist” until high school. In high school, I worked for one of my professors collecting bats at night (one of the best jobs I’ve ever had). But what really got me hooked was taking cell and developmental biology courses. Along with being interesting, cells and embryos are just really visually stunning.Thomas Boothby, Assistant Professor, University of Wyoming Read more . . .
Reading around a subject is a requirement that most lecturers expect of their students at university. Below are some resources you can use to dive deeper into the topic and strengthen your own understanding. Don’t worry if they don’t all make sense to you; this is all still very much university-level stuff, and a few are professional scientist level! Your only job here is to just give it your best go and gain a better personal insight into what your own university experience might entail in the future, as well as part of what it means to be a scientist! I have included my own guide to reading a research paper.
Boothby et al (2017) "Tardigrades use intrinsically disordered proteins to survive desiccation"
This is the paper that the above video is based on. Don't worry if you don't understand it all.
"Preserving blood - why we need to look at new options" (2016) posted to European Pharmaceutical Review (EPR)
St. Fleur, N. (2017) "How a Water Bear Survives, Even When it's Dry" The New York Times
This article is based on Boothby's research. Do you find it to be a good media representation of his research, especially now that you’ve ‘read’ his research paper? How would you explain his paper if you worked as a science journalist for the New York Times?
Olena, A. (2017) "Unstructured proteins help tardigrades survive desiccation" The Scientist
Another article detailing Thomas' work. Do you notice any differences in storytelling between this article and the New York Times one?
Thomas Boothby website
Having a professional website helps scientists to communicate their science to people all over the world. Communicating science to the general public, as well as other scientists, is hugely important to promote widespread understanding of important topics and also increase the chances of international collaborations between scientists with similar research interests.
"How to find water bears" Mike likes Science
"Tardigrades: the most resilient animals in the universe" Skill Share
"Tardigrade stress proteins for enzyme protection" (2017) A presentation given by Professor Samantha Piszkiewicz who supervised the lab where Thomas Boothby carried out his research that resulted in the paper of 2017.
Key words in this web page
In 1776 Italian biologist, Lazzaro Spallanzani, gave them the name Tardigrada, meaning "slow stepper". Also known as water bears and moss piglets
A substance that prevents the damage to cells during freezing
The removal of moisture from something. In science, this refers to the drying out of a living organism. Scientists frequently study and assess various organisms' susceptibility to desiccation
Also known as genome editing, is a group of technologies that give scientists the ability to change the organism's DNA. These technologies allow genetic material to be added, removed or altered at particular locations in the genome.