Unlocking the key to tardigrade’s radiation resistance

Unlocking the key to tardigrade’s radiation resistance

Researchers have discovered that tardigrades have the remarkable ability to repair DNA damaged by gamma radiation or X-rays. Molecular biologist Dr. De Cian and his team exposed tardigrades to gamma rays that are hundreds of times more powerful than the radiation needed to kill a human. Despite this intense exposure, the water bears survived and continued to function normally. It has long been known that tardigrades possess a resistance to radiation, but the secret to their resilience has only recently been uncovered.

Through their research, scientists have found that tardigrades excel at molecular repair, swiftly piecing together broken DNA strands. This discovery was detailed in two studies published in January in eLife and on April 12 in Current Biology. The ability of tardigrades to withstand extreme conditions has intrigued researchers for centuries. They have been observed to survive desiccation, deep freeze, and even the harsh conditions of space.

In previous studies dating back to 1963, researchers found that tardigrades could endure strong X-rays. More recent research has shown that some tardigrade species can withstand radiation doses up to 1,400 times higher than what would be lethal to humans. Radiation poses a threat by breaking DNA chains, causing direct damage to DNA molecules, and affecting other molecules within cells. Scientists suspect that tardigrades have mechanisms to prevent or repair this damage.

One such mechanism was discovered in 2016 by researchers at the University of Tokyo, who identified a protein called Dsup that appears to shield tardigrade genes from high-energy rays. Subsequent experiments showed that human cells with Dsup were less damaged by X-rays. This revelation sparked Dr. De Cian’s interest in tardigrades, leading to further studies on their DNA repair mechanisms.

Recent research has shown that after exposure to radiation, tardigrades rapidly repair their DNA by activating hundreds of genes that create new proteins. Many of these genes are used by other species, including humans, to repair damaged DNA. Tardigrades are able to produce repair cells in large quantities, effectively restoring their DNA after damage.

In addition to known repair mechanisms, scientists have uncovered new proteins in tardigrades that help them withstand DNA damage. One such protein, TRD1, was found to protect human cells from DNA damage when introduced. Further research into proteins like TRD1 could have implications for treating diseases that involve DNA damage, including cancer.

The study of tardigrades not only sheds light on their remarkable abilities but also holds promise for advancing medical research in DNA repair. By understanding how tardigrades repair their DNA, scientists may uncover new strategies for combating diseases caused by DNA damage.

Leave a Reply