For years, scientists have known about the sheer indestructibility of tardigrades, or water bears as they are sometimes known—microscopic animals that can withstand being boiled, frozen, exposed to a vacuum and being subjected to direct doses of lethal radiation.
But now, scientists have identified the exact protein that allows tardigrades to protect their DNA when exposed to such testing conditions. They went as far as to inserting this gene, which hey named Dsup (damage suppressor) onto human cell DNA and testing whether the human cells were more damage resistant. The success of this experiment leads to several possible future uses, from protecting human DNA for transport to creating hyper-resistant flora for terraforming the surface of Mars.
Biological Sciences students can look at how genes manifest themselves in organisms, and how they can be passed on both naturally and artificially. Chemistry students can look at how radiation is produced, and how it chemically destroys organic living cells.
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