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Meet The Tardigrade, Maxi Resistant Mini Species With Medical Potential

Scientists from the University of Magdalena in Colombia discovered six new species of tardigrades, microscopic 'water bears' that are remarkably resistant to extreme conditions and may help medical researchers.

A tardigrade,  or 'water bear'
A tardigrade, or 'water bear'
Edgar Salas Ballesteros

BOGOTÁ — Researchers in Colombia have discovered six new species of tardigrades — also known as "water bears' — a phylum of microorganisms considered the planet's most resilient for their physical and anatomical qualities.

The team, headed by Sigmer Quiroga Cárdenas of the University of Magdalena, believes the mechanisms tardigrades use to keep their cellular structure and DNA intact, in a dry state, are key to creating new conservation methods — for human organs, for example.

The six species are from the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, a mountainous area in northern Colombia. "Moss and lichen specimens were collected where the tardigrades were found," Quiroga adds. "The goal is to make micro-preparations for analysis by the experts and students in the MIKU," as the research group is known.

water_bear

Tardigrade under a microscope — Photo: Peter von Bagh

The group named the new "water bear" species Bryodelphax kristenseni, Doryphoribius rosanae, Itaquascon pilatoi, Milnesium kogui, Minibiotus pentannulatus and Paramacrobiotus sagani.

Quiroga says the discovery will allow for further research, starting in Colombia, on the unique tolerance mechanisms of tardigrades. The new specimens are now part of the University of Magdalena's Center for Biological Collections, the country's largest such collection with some 7,000 tardigrades overall.

The remarkable resilience of "water bears' is of particular interest in fields such as drug-making, medicine and food engineering, Quiroga explains. "These aquatic organisms have the ability, when water is scarce, to enter a state of anhydrobiosis wherein they can resist highly extreme conditions of temperature, or radiation levels that would be lethal to other organisms," he says.

Recognized as the planet's most "indestructible" animals, the eight-legged tardigrades (meaning "slow steppers') can be as large as one or two millimeters and, as their name suggests, move at a snail's pace. In Colombia, MIKU researchers have been pioneers over the past decade in the study of tardigrades, and have done much to raise awareness about the importance of miniscule creatures not only to ecosystems, but as models illustrating tolerance mechanisms in extreme conditions.

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

When Did Putin "Turn" Evil? That's Exactly The Wrong Question

Look back over the past two decades, and you'll see Vladimir Putin has always been the man revealed by the Ukraine invasion, an evil and sinister dictator. The Russian leader just managed to mask it, especially because so many chose to see him as a typically corrupt and greedy strongman who could be bribed or reasoned with.

Putin arrives for a ceremony to accept credentials from 24 foreign ambassadors at the Grand Kremlin Palace on Sept. 20.

Sergiy Gromenko*

-OpEd-

KYIV — The world knows that Vladimir Putin has power, money and mistresses. So why, ask some, wasn't that enough for him? Why did he have to go start another war?

At its heart, this is the wrong question to ask. For Putin, military expansion is not an adrenaline rush to feed into his existing life of luxury. On the contrary, the shedding of blood for the sake of holding power is his modus operandi, while the fruits of greed and corruption like the Putin Palace in Gelendzhik are more like a welcome bonus.

In the last year, we have kept hearing rhetorical questions like “why did Putin start this war at all, didn't he have enough of his own land?” or “he already has Gelendzhik to enjoy, why fight?” This line of thinking has resurfaced after missile strikes on Ukrainian power grids and dams, which was regarded by many as a simple demonstration of terrorism. Such acts are a manifestation of weakness, some ask, so is Putin ready to show himself weak?

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However, you will not arrive at the correct answer if the questions themselves are asked incorrectly. For decades, analysts in Russia, Ukraine, and the West have been under an illusion about the nature of the Russian president's personal dictatorship.

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