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J Theor Biol. 2015 Oct 7;382:137-49. doi: 10.1016/j.jtbi.2015.06.043. Epub 2015 Jul 7.

Unraveling the non-senescence phenomenon in Hydra.

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Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Konrad-Zuse-Strasse 1, Rostock, Germany. Electronic address:
Institute of Environmental Sciences, Jagiellonian University, Gronostojowa 7, Kraków, Poland.
Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Konrad-Zuse-Strasse 1, Rostock, Germany.


Unlike other metazoans, Hydra does not experience the distinctive rise in mortality with age known as senescence, which results from an increasing imbalance between cell damage and cell repair. We propose that the Hydra controls damage accumulation mainly through damage-dependent cell selection and cell sloughing. We examine our hypothesis with a model that combines cellular damage with stem cell renewal, differentiation, and elimination. The Hydra individual can be seen as a large single pool of three types of stem cells with some features of differentiated cells. This large stem cell community prevents "cellular damage drift," which is inevitable in complex conglomerate (differentiated) metazoans with numerous and generally isolated pools of stem cells. The process of cellular damage drift is based on changes in the distribution of damage among cells due to random events, and is thus similar to Muller's ratchet in asexual populations. Events in the model that are sources of randomness include budding, cellular death, and cellular damage and repair. Our results suggest that non-senescence is possible only in simple Hydra-like organisms which have a high proportion and number of stem cells, continuous cell divisions, an effective cell selection mechanism, and stem cells with the ability to undertake some roles of differentiated cells.


Cellular damage drift; Clonal organism; Immortality; Muller׳s ratchet; Programmed cell death

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