Sapo pode ajudar Humanidade a chegar a Marte e além

Cientistas identificam genes responsáveis por proteger animais do enfraquecimento muscular durante longos períodos de hibernação


O segredo que poderá permitir à Humanidade chegar a Marte e além pode estar no genoma de um pequeno sapo australiano, o Cyclorana alboguttata. Cientistas da Universidade de Queensland identificaram os genes responsáveis por proteger os músculos dos animais do enfraquecimento durante os longos períodos de inatividade enquanto hibernam. No espaço, os astronautas sofrem com um tipo similar de atrofia muscular devido à pouca gravidade, o que constitui um grande problema para missões de longa duração como uma viagem ao planeta vermelho, que pode levar entre 39 e 289 dias dependendo da distância que Terra e Marte estão nas suas órbitas em torno do Sol.

– Se pudermos entender as vias de sinalização celular que dão resistência ao enfraquecimento dos músculos, então eles (os genes) podem ser candidatos úteis nos estudos da atrofia muscular em mamíferos – diz Beau Reilly, estudante de doutorado da universidade australiana e líder da pesquisa. – Isso pode ajudar no desenvolvimento de terapias para pacientes presos em seus leitos e mesmo para astronautas, que perdem o tônus muscular quando expostos a condições de gravidade reduzida.

Um dos genes encontrados na espécie de sapos, batizado survivin (corruptela em inglês da palavra “sobrevivendo”), é apontado pelos cientistas como um dos mais promissores. O gene parece proteger as células dos animais do mecanismo “suicida” normalmente responsável pela remoção de células danificadas ou doentes, que geralmente entra em ação devido justamente à inatividade das próprias células. Sabe-se também que este gene é particularmente muito ativo em células humanas cancerosas. Já outro gene, chamado checkpoint kinase 1, regula a divisão celular e a reparação do DNA das células dos sapos durante sua hibernação.


Outro caminho identificado envolve a atuação de moléculas carregadas conhecidas como espécies oxigenadas reativas (ROS, na sigla em inglês), que em mamíferos danifica músculos inativos por meio da degradação de suas proteínas. Os sapos, no entanto, sofrem menos com a ação das ROS devido a maiores níveis de compostos antioxidantes em seus organismos, o que também já foi observado em algumas espécies de mamíferos que hibernam, como esquilos.

Na Austrália, os sapos da espécie Cyclorana alboguttata vivem em regiões áridas e nos períodos de seca prolongada se enterram no solo para hibernar protegidos por um casulo de pele descamada, emergindo com a volta das chuvas meses depois e em boas condições físicas.

– Sou fascinado por animais que sobrevivem em tais condições extremas – diz Reilly. – Creio que os humanos e a medicina moderna têm muito que aprender de organismos como estes sapos.

Fonte: O Globo


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