Hydras – appropriately named after mythical Greek monsters – are one of nature’s most curious creations. The minuscule freshwater animal has been dubbed “immortal” by scientists due to its uncanny ability to perfectly regenerate itself from only a minuscule part of its body. And researchers have now made the animals even more odd make forcing them to sprout fully-functional heads all over their bodies.
This is because scientists have finally figured-out regulates hydra head regeneration – with potentially profound implications for cancer research.
Simple organisms like this tell us what kind of test we can do in mammals
Professor Brigitte Galliota
Body parts regeneration is a an incredible achievement, requiring animals has to reorganise its body limb-by-limb.
Although scientists held some pieces of the puzzle, such as knowing the gene Wnt3 is crucial for head growth, they were huge gaps in their knowledge.
A key area is understanding the hydra’s "off" switch, preventing growth of near-infinite heads for example.
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Mutant monsters: Hydras with multiple heads have grown in a lab (Image: Professor Brigitte Galliota / University of Geneva)
Hydras: The freshwater animal has been dubbed “immortal' (Image: Getty)
And University of Geneva scientists appear to have discovered what they were looking for – the seemingly simple Sp5 gene capable of halting an otherwise runaway feedback loop.
And in order to test their theory the researchers grew hydras engineered not to express the Sp5 gene.
"In 100 percent of these animals you get extra heads, which is really amazing,” said Professor Brigitte Galliota, of