Hydra viridissima (also known as Hydra viridis and Chlorohydra viridissima), or the green hydra. Image credit: Frank Fox

The tiny freshwater animal Hydra is so good at repairing itself that it could give us clues how to treat human neural diseases.

The Hydra is a small freshwater animal that is related to jellyfish and corals. It is a master at repairing itself when damaged and can even recreate a complete individual from any part of its tiny body.

Even if it loses all of its nerve cells can continue to live, move and catch food. And this ability, in particular, have remained a complete mystery to science.

But ow a team of Swiss researchers has investigated how this is possible and they noticed that the hydra can reprogram genes in other cells so that these can at least partially replace the lost nerve cells. The hydra essentially genetically modify itself.

This enormous plasticity that the Hydra cells have are uniqe. According to the researchers, it would be interesting to investigate if this ability could somehow be of relevance for treatment of human diseases.

Reference: Wenger et al. Loss of neurogenesis in Hydra leads to compensatory regulation of neurogenic and neurotransmission genes in epithelial cells. Philosophical Transactions B of the Royal Society. DOI: 10.1098 / rstb.2015.0040.