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Tardigrades are resistant to ionizing radiation due to rapid DNA repair. Another superpower of these organisms has been discovered

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These microscopic animals continue to surprise scientists with their ability to survive in extremely difficult conditions. The latest study shows how tardigrades are able to survive strong ionizing radiation. “They're doing something we didn't expect,” said a biologist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Tardigrades are microscopic invertebrates with eight legs common around the world that live mainly in aquatic environments. They are famous for their resistance to extreme conditions. In a state of anabiosis, they can survive at temperatures from close to absolute zero to over 150 degrees Celsius, they can survive pressure of 6,000 atmospheres, they are also resistant to lack of water for over 100 years, and they can survive in space.

Tardigrades are also known to be extremely resistant to ionizing radiation. Already 60 years ago it was discovered that in this respect they are 100 times superior not only to humans, but also to all animals. It was believed that at least some species of these invertebrates resist the effects of ionizing radiation thanks to a specific damage suppressor protein – Dsup, but not all of them have it, so researchers suspected that the tardigrades may owe their survival to something else.

The amazing ability of tardigrades

Scientists decided to look at the species Hypsibius exemplaris, which they subjected to radiation. The study showed that tardigrades are no less sensitive than humans to gamma radiation-induced DNA damage, but are able to quickly repair extensive damage. They increase the production of DNA repair genes to the point where most of the damaged DNA can be repaired within 24 hours after exposure to radiation.

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– What we saw surprised us – said prof. Bob Goldstein, a biologist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “The tardigrades are doing something we didn't expect,” he added.

When the researchers introduced some DNA repair genes taken from tardigrades into Escherichia coli bacteria and exposed the bacteria to ionizing radiation, they found that the genetically altered bacteria had a DNA repair ability similar to that seen in tardigrades. Meanwhile, the same doses of radiation killed bacteria from the unmodified control group.

Tardigrades are microscopic invertebrates that live in aquatic environmentsShutterstock

“That seems to be their secret.”

“Tardigrades have an amazing response to radiation, and this seems to be the secret to their extreme survival abilities,” said Dr. Clark-Hachtel, who worked on the team. “What we learn about how tardigrades overcome radiation stress may lead to new ideas for how we might protect other animals and microorganisms from harmful radiation,” she added.

The study results were published in the journal “Current Biology”.

PAP, ScienceAlert, tvnmeteo.pl

Main photo source: Shutterstock

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