Glass Insects in Space!
"I will praise Thee, O Lord, with my whole heart; I will shew forth all Thy marvelous works."
Brine shrimp and water bears are tiny animals that are able to basically freeze dry into a state of suspended animation and then return to active life. Scientists have learned that they do this by replacing the water in their cells with a sugar called trehalose.
The larvae of a fly native to Africa makes its living eating organic material that settles at the bottom of puddles. During periods of drought, the larvae replace the water in their cells with trehalose. The sugar acts just like other sugars, solidifying into a glasslike state. In this state, the sugar acts to stabilize the larvae's tissues. The larvae can remain in this state for up to 17 years and still come back to life when water is again available.
Scientists would like to learn more about this ability. Their hope is to apply such knowledge to preserving blood for transfusion in a dry form. They may also learn how to preserve organs for transplant. As part of their research, they have sent dry larvae to the International Space Station. They want to see if the larvae can be revived after they have been exposed to space outside the space station.
Not only are the wonders that God has created marvelous, but we can learn from them for our own betterment.
Notes: Science News, 3/29/08, p. 197, Davide Castelvecchi, "Live Another Day."
Photo: Courtesy of Hans Hillewaert. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.
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