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Cryptobiosis- Hope in Climate Crisis & Space Travel

Recently: A study published in the journal PLOS Genetics, scientists from the University of Cologne in Germany claim to have revived......Cryptobiosis

Recently: A study published in the journal PLOS Genetics, scientists from the University of Cologne in Germany claim to have revived roundworms frozen 46,000 years ago in the Siberian permafrost.

  • Worms discovered in ice layers untouched for millennia.
  • After thawing and placing in culture medium, worms resumed regular activity.

What is Permafrost?

  • Permafrost is ground that remains completely frozen at 0 degrees Celsius or below for at least two years. Permafrost regions are not always covered in snow.
  • It is defined solely based on temperature and duration. The permanently frozen ground, consisting of soil, sand, and rock held together by ice, is believed to have formed during glacial periods dating several millennia.

What is Cryptobiosis?

Cryptobiosis is the condition of inactive metabolic activity during adverse environmental conditions. In this state, the organism can live for a longer period until the conditions are favourable again. Reproduction, development and repair stop due to the inactivation of the metabolic activities.

  • Cryptobiosis: organisms’ ability to endure extreme inactivity for survival.
  • Implications span space exploration, agriculture, medical research.
  • Tardigrades’ endurance in extreme conditions piques scientific curiosity.
  • Roundworm’s 46,000-year survival in cryptobiosis breaks records.

In a world facing unprecedented challenges like climate change and the exploration of outer space, scientists are turning their attention to a phenomenon that could hold the key to survival in extreme conditions: cryptobiosis.

This remarkable state of suspended animation in certain organisms offers hope not only for combating environmental crises on Earth but also for enabling long-duration space travel.

Cryptobiosis And its Types:

  • Cryptobiosis: Metabolic state in extremophilic organisms for survival.
  • Triggers: harsh conditions like desiccation, freezing, lack of oxygen.
  • All measurable processes halt, including reproduction and repair.
  • Organism in suspended animation until favorable conditions return.
  • Resumes normal metabolic life when environment becomes suitable.
  • Analogy to laptop sleep mode, reducing metabolism for prolonged survival.
  • Human sleep: bodily functions slow down, similar to hibernation in polar bears.

Types of Cryptobiosis


  • Anhydrobiosis means “life without water”. It refers to the ability of some organisms to survive extreme water stress.
  • This has been observed in lichens, cyanobacteria, yeast, mosses, algae, etc. This state is induced by desiccation.
  • This situation occurs during lack of oxygen when the organism becomes turgid by taking in water and immobilising.
  • It is the suspension of metabolic activities in response to high levels of metabolic toxins. Tardigrades exhibit chemobiosis.
  • This type of cryptobiosis occurs during reduced temperatures.
  • When the water surrounding the organism freezes, cryobiosis is initiated and all the metabolic activities of the organisms are paused.
  • It occurs in response to increased solute concentration of the solution in which the organism lives.
  • However, less is known about this type.

Cryptobiosis Can Change Medical Science

  • Cryptobiosis not limited to microorganisms; humans also have hidden potential.
  • Cultural/religious practices reveal remarkable human capabilities.
  • Proof of humans achieving unique states beyond the norm.
  • Study of these practices in early stages, hinting at internal chemical processes.
  • Potential for inducing such states artificially through study of organisms and human feats.
  • Profound impact on biology, medical science, and life in the galaxy.
  • Cryptobiotic organisms’ proteins/compounds may hold cures for unknown diseases.

A Solution for Climate Crisis

  • Cryptobiosis emerges as hopeful amidst climate change challenges.
  • Organisms like tardigrades employ cryptobiosis against harsh conditions.
  • Allows survival in extreme heat, cold, and drought scenarios.
  • Scientists investigating methods to utilize this mechanism.
  • Aim to safeguard crops, forests, and vital ecosystems from climate change effects.
  • Cryptobiosis holds potential as a natural defense against environmental adversity.

Cryptobiosis and Space Travel

  • Cryptobiosis offers potential for space exploration.
  • Long-duration space travel challenges: cosmic radiation, limited resources.
  • Cryptobiosis induction in astronauts could create suspended animation-like state.
  • Benefits: reduced life support resources, counter effects of extended space travel.
  • Innovation needed for practical application in space missions.

What are the Research and Applications of Cryptobiosis?

  • Ongoing scientific study of cryptobiosis mechanisms and induction methods.
  • Focus on understanding genetic and biochemical foundations.
  • Potential for creating conditions to activate cryptobiosis as a survival mechanism.
  • Implications extend to cryopreservation techniques, e.g., organ transplantation, biobanking.
  • Anticipated advancements with wide-ranging impacts across medical and biological domains.

Ethics and Future Perspective

  • Cryptobiosis holds exciting potential applications but triggers ethical concerns, especially when inducing it in humans.
  • Balancing scientific progress and ethical responsibilities is crucial during ongoing research.
  • Cryptobiosis gains significance amid escalating climate change effects and humanity’s curiosity about space exploration.
  • This natural survival strategy offers hope for safeguarding biodiversity and facilitating interstellar journeys.
  • The mysteries of cryptobiosis may provide solutions for humanity’s most significant challenges.
  • The phenomenon showcases life’s adaptability and resilience in adverse conditions.
  • Understanding cryptobiosis could lead to innovative solutions for Earth’s challenges and space exploration possibilities.

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