Radiotolerance Lessons from the Tardigrades


Image: female tardigrade containing eggs.

Hashimoto and colleagues (2016) published an article in Nature recently:

Extremotolerant tardigrade genome and improved radiotolerance of human cultured cells by tardigrade-unique protein

Tardigrades, a.k.a. water bears, are some of the most extreme organisms, capable of surviving in the most un-habitable environments and being exposed to insults that would kill other living beings. Examples include: very high and very low temperatures, high doses of radiation, high pressure, outer space, and others.

Here are some of the particularities (in terms of gene expression) of tardigrades:


In the study above, researchers wanted to determine the reaction of human cells to DNA damage induced by radiation. The cells have been genetically modified to express a tardigrade protein associated with radiation tolerance/protection – Dsup (named liked this because of its damage suppression activity).

Their hypothesis was that by associating Dsup with DNA in the nucleus, they will provide better protection to DNA damage by radiation. Their purpose was to induce single and double strand breaks by exposing the cultured cells to X-ray irradiation.

In short, this study revealed that Dsup suppresses DNA breaks induced by X-ray irradiation and improves the viability of the cells in the culture.

To read my (detailed) interpretation of this study, please see my steemit blogpost.

Images: Adapted from Bob Blaylock and Hashimoto et al. (2016)

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