With the water bear worm “fit” humans can resist space radiation?

Through genetic analysis, scientists have discovered a single “weapon” of water bear worms against radiation damage – the damage-suppressing protein Dsup. They also found that the protein was also protective in other animal cells. Space travel, Mars settlement, etc. are part of our “star sea” vision, but human beings are after all the naked eye, how to resist space travel or life on other planets may be harmed?

Recently, scientists suggested that it might be possible to combine the DNA of the python with human cells to use its powerful viability to make astronauts more resistant to the harmful effects of space flight.

Where is the water bear worm “sacred”? Can its DNA really bind to human cells? In response, Yang Yuguang, a researcher at the Second Academy of China Aerospace Science and Technology Group, told Science and Technology Daily: “The combination of water bear worm DNA with human cells is not reliable, but also involves ethical issues.” At present, the metal shell and strong magnetic field shielding technology is the mainstream technology of astronauts to resist long-term space radiation. “

Water bear worm has “exclusive weapon”

Who can successfully wake up after 30 years of sleeping at minus 20 degrees Celsius; calm down at 150 degrees Celsius; withstand a vacuum in space, withstand radiation attacks; and survive in an environment that is six times the pressure of the deep sea?

The answer is: Water Bear!

Scientists have known that the python is the most viable species on Earth, and the animal is only about 1 millimeter in size and can see its appearance with a microscope. Chris Mason, a geneticist at Cornell University, told the American Fun Science website that the water raccoon is currently the only known animal to survive in space.

So what is the “secret weapon” of water bear worms that tolerate synopsis in all kinds of extreme environments?

Scientists have found that water bears have more superoxide dismutase genes and more copies of MRE11 genes than other animals, which can help reduce oxidative damage and repair DNA, thus acting as a protective role. In addition, water bear worms are missing genes associated with environmental stress, which may also help them adapt to harsh environments.

Japanese scientists have identified a unique “weapon” against radiation damage from water-bear worms through genetic analysis, which can significantly reduce damage to the DNA of water bears during X-ray exposure, the British journal Nature reported on September 20, 2016.

The researchers also found that the protein was also protective in other animal cells. They had the protein expressed by the laboratory-grown human-derived cells, and as a result, the cells that expressed the Dsup protein remained cell active and proliferating after receiving X-ray radiation, and their DNA damage was 40 percent less than the control group.

“Human worm combination” is not reliable and ethical

Mason’s team, which plans to build on the findings, said that in the future, the DNA of the python could be combined with human cells to help astronauts withstand radiation from space radiation for long periods of time.

Research shows that one of the main health problems astronauts face in space travel is radiation exposure, the Science Network reported. If scientists can find a way to help human cells protect against radiation, astronauts will be able to live healthier lives in space for longer. Moreover, in theory, the technique could also be used to reduce the effects of radiation on healthy cells during cancer treatment.

Despite Mason’s confidence in combining the DNA of water bears with human cells, Yang Yuguang told reporters: “It’s not reliable, and it’s ethical.” “

Yang Yuguang explained: “The reason why water bear worms are able to withstand such harsh environments, in addition to the genetic reasons mentioned above, is largely due to their small size.” “Biophysics tells us that the state of force under a vacuum, including the relationship between the forces that can be sustained and the internal and external pressures, is different from that of such tiny water raccoons and other large objects, such as humans. Like a flea body 0.5-3 mm long, but can jump 350 mm height, equivalent to more than 100 times the length of the body, if humans have flea jumping ability, can jump to a height of about 340 meters? This is clearly not possible. “Similarly, if the proportions of the water bear worm are magnified to the size of a human, it is as resistant to vacuum as it is. Yang Yuguang said.

In addition, Mason said, if genetic engineering could make humans safer living on Mars without affecting their lives on Earth, it might be ethical. But Yang Yuguang pointed out: “If the DNA of the water bear worm is combined with human cells, then the person with the exogenous DNA is still human?” This is also a question worth pondering. “

Metals and strong magnetic fields are “shields”.

If the method of binding the DNA of the python to human cells is not reliable, what can be done to help humans resist the radiation from space for a long time?

Yang Yuguang said that scientists are currently trying a variety of methods, but more reliable is the metal shielding technology and strong magnetic field shielding technology.

“The so-called metal shielding, is the use of thick metal to create the shell of the spacecraft, shielding space radiation, the defect of this method is that the spacecraft’s ‘block’ is the larger, the more metal is needed, resulting in the spacecraft ‘weight’ increase, launch costs rise. Therefore, this approach is suitable for smaller spacecraft. “

To reduce the size of the spacecraft, scientists have come up with the idea of “hibernating” astronauts. Nasa and the European Space Agency (ESA) are currently studying manned deep space exploration techniques that control astronauts’ hibernation, according to reports. ESA has come up with a manned exploration concept that sleeps all the way from Earth to Mars, which the agency considers “controlled ‘hibernation’ to be a game-changing technology in manned space flight” and has set up a team that specializes in research in the hope of bringing its “dreams to life.”

Yang Yuguang said: “The ‘hibernating’ astronauts do not need much space for movement, the size and quality of the spacecraft can be greatly reduced, radiation protection technology difficulties and costs can be significantly reduced.” “But the technology is still a beautiful vision and it’s not happening. How to ensure the safety of “hibernating” technology – both to ensure that astronauts wake up on time, but also to prevent “hibernation” on the astronaut’s body serious damage, there are many technical problems to be solved.

As for magnetic shielding, European scientists are now planning to use magnetic fields to surround spacecraft, like the magnetosphere that surrounds the Earth, to protect astronauts from space radiation, according tomedia reports. The project, called Space Radiation Superconductive Shielding (SR2S), uses superconducting magnets to generate a magnetic field 3,000 times stronger than the Earth’s magnetosphere, which alters the path of charged particles, and SR2S will create a 30-foot (10-meter) cosmic ray deflection field around the spacecraft.

But Yang Yuguang also pointed out that the magnetic field shielding method is also a double-edged sword, because the strong magnetic field itself will bring harm to the human body. “How to make a strong magnetic field better protect against radiation without harming the human body is also a huge challenge. “

From Columbus’s discovery of the New World, to the man’s landing on the moon, to the expedition to Mars, and beyond, the path of human exploration of the universe has never been easy, but this does not stop the human steps towards outer space, “the road is long and far, I will go up and down and seek.” With the advent of new technologies, human exploration of the new world will certainly become more accessive. (Reporter Liu Xia)

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