Worm Regenerates Into Two-Headed Alien Creature In Space

First Posted: Jun 14, 2017 04:30 AM EDT

In a scene right out of a sci-fi movie, an amputated worm regenerated into an alien creature with two heads aboard the International Space Station (ISS). Incidentally, the worms belonged to the Planaria family that is used for studies frequently as they can regenerate from their amputated body parts.

According to Deccan Chronicle, flatworms in space help scientists to observe how the absence of geomagnetic fields and normal gravity can have anatomical, bacteriological and behavioral impacts. Therefore, this field of research has implications for space travelers, both human and animals. Furthermore, they will also be important for bioengineering and regenerative science in space.

For the recent research, a team of scientists wanted to find out how micro-geometric and microgravity impact the growth and regeneration of planarian flatworms. The researchers discovered that one of the amputated fragments of planarian worms sent to space regenerated into a worm with two heads.

Interestingly, when both the heads of the space exposed worm were amputated, the headless middle portion regenerated into a two-headed worm. The regeneration showed that the body plan modification that took place in the worm was permanent.

"As mankind makes a transition toward becoming a space-faring species, it is important that we understand the effect of spaceflight on regenerative health for the sake of medicine and the future of space laboratory research," research associate Junji Morokuma said, as Business Insider reported.

Incidentally, scientists launched a set of flatworms into space in 2015. The worms were either kept whole or amputated and sealed in tubes filled half with air and half with water. Furthermore, the researchers created two sets of worms: one was sent to space and another set was sealed in spring water in the same manner as the space traveling ones. The second set was kept in darkness at 20 degrees Celsius for the same amount of time and introduced to the same changes in temperature as space-exposed worms.

Once the space-traveled worms returned to Earth, the scientists found some other differences between the extraterrestrial and terrestrial worms. In addition to growing an extra pair of a head, the whole worms launched into space went through spontaneous fission, which their Earth-bound counterparts did not go through. This indicated that the worms had changed their biological state to accommodate space’s environmental change and strongly reacted when they were returned to normal aqueous conditions.

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