Discover Biology At The Extreme Limits of Life

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Ira Pastor, ideaXme exponential health ambassador interviews Dr. Thomas Boothby, Assistant Professor from the Department of Molecular Biology, University of Wyoming.

Ira Pastor comments: A few episodes ago we began to segway into a fascinating area of biology that has broad potential applications across various domains of human health and enhancement, and that was the theme of organism dormancy.

We got our feet wet in talking about the topic of torpor, which ?is defined as a state of decreased physiological activity in an animal, usually by a reduced body temperature and metabolic rate, which ?enables animals to survive periods of reduced food availability ? and we spent time on the topic of the arctic ground squirrel research being done at University of Alaska.

On today's show we are going to go a few levels of extreme further as we touch on the topic of cryptobiosis, which is defined is an extreme metabolic state of life entered by an organism in response to extreme adverse environmental conditions such as desiccation, freezing, and oxygen deficiency.

In the cryptobiotic state, all measurable metabolic processes stop, preventing reproduction, development, and repair. When environmental conditions return to being hospitable, the organism will return to its metabolic state of life as it was prior to the cryptobiosis.

And I don't think one could argue that the true "king of the hill" on this planet when it comes to such cryptobiotic skills, are the Tardigrades, known colloquially as "water bears" or "moss piglets", a phylum of water-dwelling eight-legged segmented micro-animals.

These organisms are found living everywhere, from mountaintops, to the deep sea and mud volcanoes, from tropical rain forests to Antarctica.

Tardigrades are among the most resilient animals known, with individual species able to survive extreme conditions, such as exposure to extreme temperatures, extreme pressures (both high and low), air deprivation, radiation, dehydration, and starvation that would quickly kill most other known forms of life. Tardigrades have also survived exposure to the vacuum of outer space.

Ira Pastor comments: Today, we are joined by someone who really knows this species and its biology the best, and that is Dr. Thomas Boothby, Assistant Professor from the Department of Molecular Biology, University of Wyoming, whose core areas of study are the molecular mechanisms of extreme ?stress tolerance (also defined as "Biology at the Limits of Life").

Dr. Boothby got his Ph.D. at the University of Maryland in Cell and Molecular Biology, studying mechanisms of recovery, gene expression regulation, and morphogenesis, after prolonged desiccation, in certain plant species.

Then he spent several years at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill doing post-doctoral research and studying the biochemistry and mechanisms of extremo-tolerant organisms.

Today we will hear from Dr. Boothby about:

- His background and how he developed an interest in science, in nature, and in this unique domain of study.

- About the topic of Intrinsically Disordered Proteins (IP) - a group of proteins that lacks a fixed or ordered three-dimensional structure, which is partially responsible for imparting the tardigrade's extreme biological robustness.

- Other interesting mechanisms of extremo-tolerant organisms

- About his work and ideas as related to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Biostasis Program, which is focused on the? "golden hour" for saving a life in a catastrophic emergency - (DARPA is an agency of the United States Department of Defense responsible for the development of emerging technologies for use by the military).

- Other "science fiction" topics related to tardigrade biology learnings for human enhancement, such as possibilities for deep space travel and suspended animation / cryonics

- Any near-term insights from tardigrade research on human aging.

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