Tardigrades (aka water bears) are the most resilient animals on earth: They can survive extreme conditions that would be rapidly fatal to nearly all other known life forms. And they can be found almost everywhere on the planet. Recently, scientists have discovered the mystery of their toughness: A protein that protects their DNA from radiation.
These microscopic creatures called Tardigrades keep their DNA protected—and this amazing survival skill could someday help us, humans, shield our DNA from radiation.
According to a recent study done by scientists from the University of Tokyo and published in Nature Communications revealed that Tardigrades have a unique DNA structure that made cells consume themselves and create hydrogen peroxide when experiencing environmental stress, which is harmful to the organism.
Professor Takekazu Kunieda and his team observed the DNA structure of the Tardigrades and found out that “Dsup” protein make them extremely resilient against radiation by creating a built-in shield for the cells.
Kunieda said, “It could be helpful for space flight, radiotherapy and radiation workers in the far future.”
The study also found out that when human cells were modified to produce the same protein, the cell cultures had 40% less damage from X-ray exposure than normal cells and were more protected from the damage of hydrogen peroxide.