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Water Bear Protein Protects Human Cells from Radiation

06:44 EDT 23 Sep 2016 | Genetic Engineering News

For the microscopic, six-legged water bear, or tardigrade, the ability to tolerate extreme conditions just comes naturally. Ultimately, the water bear is so resilient because of its genetic endowment, as a group of Japanese researchers have confirmed, at least with respect to the water bear’s ability to tolerate intense radiation.

When the researchers transferred one particular water bear gene to human cells, the gene produced a DNA-protecting protein, which helped the human cells survive otherwise fatal amounts of radiation damage. Most remarkably, the human cells did not appear to find the gene particularly disruptive. They retained the ability to divide.

Details of the researchers’ work appeared September 20 in the journal Nature Communications, in an article entitled, “Extremotolerant tardigrade genome and improved radiotolerance of human cultured cells by tardigrade-unique protein.” The article describes how University of Tokyo researchers determined a high-

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