Water Bears Resistant To Radiation Damage, Study Finds

By Rodney Rafols , Sep 21, 2016 03:00 AM EDT

Tardigrades are small aquatic creatures. Though they might be small, they have a characteristic that has scientists interested in them: they can resist radiation very well. This has intrigued scientists and could be of value later on.

Tardigrades are also known as Water Bears. The small aquatic creatures have recently been found to have a protein which makes them resistant to radiation. The protein that has been discovered has been called Dsup, which stands for Damage Suppressor. This protein protects DNA from high levels of radiation.

In the study, it has been seen that human cells given the ability to create Dsup was less damaged by radiation from X-ray. The cells were also found to have the ability to reproduce even after exposure to radiation. The study has been done at the University of Tokyo's Graduate School of Science.

Lead author Takuma Hashimoto has performed the tolerance experiments, according to Science Daily. The cultured cells were left to be exposed to X-ray and then later incubated. His team has noticed that there have been great changes between those with and without Dsup after incubation.

The researchers say that the findings would be interesting in the medical field. Co-author Takekazu Kunieda says that the study could be helpful in space flight, radiotherapy and for others who might be exposed frequently to radiation.

The Washington Post noted that the study is still speculative as of date, as its findings cannot be applied directly to humans yet. Animal lab testing will have to be done as well before any practical application can be made to humans.

Ingemar Jonsson is an evolutionary ecologist at Sweden's Kristianstad University and has studied tardigrades. He observes that the study is an exciting one and that he expects more proteins like Dsup to be discovered. Jonsson is not involved in the University of Tokyo study.

Tardigrades aren't just resistant to radiation but can survive in extreme conditions as well. Kunieda says that they can survive extreme heat and cold and even in the vacuum of space. Researchers are still finding out what makes them resilient in different conditions. He says that tardigrades might have molecules that can make them withstand such extreme conditions that researchers still need to discover.

There are other medical news on iTechPost such as scientists developing a compound to fight antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

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