When researchers sent a group of worms into space, they were astonished at what happened to the specimens once they returned home. The most shocking of all of the discoveries is one worm that developed two heads… and apparently, the two heads are here to stay.
According to Live Science, a group of flat worms was sent into space to study how “microgravity and fluctuations in the geomagnetic field” might affect their regenerative powers. Worms of this species are well known to have the ability to regrow parts of their bodies after amputations occur.
Some of these regrowths result in a new tail or head, depending on where the amputation occurred in the worm’s body. Others have been known to split into two separate individuals after an amputation occurs.
So these researchers sent the worms to International Space Station to study the possible changes.. and boy were there some changes!
Over the five-week period that the worms were visiting the ISS, several things occurred. First, the worms were stored in containers that were filled with air and spring water. About an hour after their entry into space, the worms experienced water shock and curled into small balls. Then, they unraveled about two hours into the trip.
That’s when researchers discovered the worm’s microbial communities had been altered. Once the worms returned home to Earth after the five weeks, scientists noticed that some worms had become identical twins, completely separating into two version of the same worm. Others had grown an affinity for being in the light.
Then there was this guy…
The worm that came back with two heads.
This is something that researchers did not expect and had not encountered in the worm’s regenerative powers before. According to Michael Levin, the lead researcher on the project, “Normal flatworms in water never do this.”
See, in addition to whole worms… the scientists also sent worm “fragments” to see what would happen and this worm fragment’s result was out-of-this-world. (Pun definitely intended.)
“Scientists know a lot about biochemical signals that allow cells to cooperate to build and repair a complex body. However, the physical forces involved in this process are not well understood,” Levin said speaking on the motivation for the project.
The study of these flatworms can offer insight into how other biological systems interact with the conditions in space, “which in turn will not only help us optimize future space travel, but will [also] shed light on basic mechanisms that will have implications for regenerative medicine therapies on Earth and in space,” Levin added.
So over the course of 20 months, scientists continued to study the changes, even going as far as to amputate both heads off the two-headed worm. The result… the heads grew back. Both of them.
I guess in this case… two heads are better than one.
Image and Content: Conservative Tribune