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The painted turtle exhibits unique adaptations allowing it to survive freezing temperatures and long periods without oxygen, making it an excellent model for studying hypoxia, anoxia, and freeze tolerance. Humans share some of the genes activated in turtles under low-oxygen conditions, but they are regulated differently. Understanding these mechanisms could aid in treating hypoxic injuries and improving organ cryopreservation for transplants. However, research is limited by a lack of genomic tools and in vitro models for the species.

A study in Communications Biology introduced a method for generating stem cell-derived liver organoids from turtles, aiming to explore these adaptations more deeply. This approach provides a new tool for researchers, enabling them to investigate questions previously unanswerable due to technological constraints. These organoids are significant as they replicate key liver functions and can be frozen and revived indefinitely, offering a continuous source of experimental material.

Researchers validated the organoids by comparing them with the original liver tissue using histology and RNA sequencing. The organoids contained similar cell types and expressed most of the same genes. This development allows for detailed studies of the turtle’s adaptations at the molecular level, facilitating future research into specific gene functions and environmental responses.

While the current study did not test the organoids’ responses to low oxygen, it represents a crucial step forward. Future research will focus on exposing the organoids to different conditions to observe molecular changes, potentially leading to new insights into hypoxia and freeze tolerance mechanisms.

In summary, the development of turtle liver organoids is a significant advancement in the field, providing a powerful new tool for studying the molecular basis of the painted turtle’s unique adaptations to extreme conditions​.

Keywords: Turtle, organoids, RNA sequencing, liver organoids