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Tardigrades, also known as water bears, commonly survive in some of Earth’s most challenging environments. The microscopic animals are so extraordinary that they have even traveled to the International Space Station for research.

Lead author Amanda Smythers at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School and researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia, first started looking at this phenomenon thanks to a growing body of literature that suggested cysteines were involved in kicking off the tun process, she said.