Scientists look to tardigrades to help protect future space faring humans from radiation

10/07/2019 - 20:23

Carolina Chavez, Grisel Cruz-Becerra, Jia Fei, George A Kassavetis, James T Kadonaga

Tardigrades, also known as water bears and moss piglets, are small animals found in many different environments on land and sea. These animals have the remarkable ability to survive extremes including very low temperatures, high levels of radiation and exposure to chemicals that are harmful to other forms of life. Tardigrades have even been found to survive the harsh conditions of outer space.

X-rays are a type of radiation naturally produced by lightning strikes and are also found in cosmic rays from outer space. High doses of X-rays can cause genetic mutations that may lead to serious illness or death. This is because when X-rays come into contact with water they split the water molecules to make particles known as hydroxyl radicals, which in turn damage the DNA inside cells.

Read the full paper:

"The tardigrade damage suppressor protein binds to nucleosomes and protects DNA from hydroxyl radicals". 1 Oct 2019. eLife - CHROMOSOMES AND GENE EXPRESSION 2019;8:e47682 DOI: 10.7554/eLife.47682