Scientists Identify Gene That Protects Tardigrades From Radiation


A tardigrade being cute. Image: NPG Press/YouTube
A tardigrade being cute. Image: NPG Press/YouTube
Tardigrades are tough little creatures. The teensy little creepy-crawlies, which average less than a millimetre in length and are also known as water bears or moss piglets, are able to go into a dehydrated state and survive some of the harshest environments, including the vacuum of space. Yup.

By Victoria Turk | MOTHERBOARD

Quite how these micro-animals manage to tolerate conditions that would be deadly to other creatures remains largely a mystery, though it’s been a surprisingly controversial question of late as various groups of scientists attempt to find the answers by sequencing the tardigrade genome.

A new sequencing attempt, detailed in Nature Communications, identifies a protein the researchers say helps protect the tardigrade’s DNA from radiation. They even suggest proteins like it could one day be applied to develop new protective mechanisms for other animals, and showed that it was possible to transfer its protective effect to human cells.

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