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Animal brought back to life from 30-year deep freeze

Technically Incorrect: Japanese scientists say they've resuscitated a tiny waterbear from a frozen moss sample.

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.


waterbear.jpg

It looks a little like a seal to me.

Photo by WSJ/YouTube screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

More than one human -- deceased baseball star Ted Williams, for example -- has wondered whether freezing your body when you die might allow you to be revived in the future.

Perhaps Japanese scientists are beginning to find an answer.

As the Wall Street Journal reports, researchers at Japan's National Institute of Polar Research have resuscitated two tardigrades -- sometimes known as waterbears or moss piglets -- from a 30.5-year deep freeze.

It seems odd that animal-namers can't decide whether these tiny eight-legged creatures look more like pigs or bears. I'm going with waterbears.

The researchers first collected two waterbears in 1983 from an Antarctican moss sample. They then stored them at minus-20 degrees C (roughly minus-4 degrees Fahrenheit). They defrosted them in 2014.

After defrosting, it took one of the waterbears 29 days to return to what the researchers described as a normal condition. The other died after 20 days.

This isn't the first time waterbears have been revived from frozen. One experiment saw them brought back to life after nine years in deep freeze.

Waterbears are known as "extremophiles." They are able to shut down their metabolism and survive in severely hostile conditions for long periods.

The researchers' report offers this explanation for the waterbears' survival: "This considerable extension of the known length of long-term survival of tardigrades recorded in our study is interpreted as being associated with the minimum oxidative damage likely to have resulted from storage under stable frozen conditions."

They admit, though, that they don't really know how these beings -- less than 1mm long -- survive as long as they do.

Perhaps when they do, we will learn something about the prospects for reviving humans. Or perhaps waterbears are simply special beings. And we're not.

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