Deinococcus radiodurans laughs in the face of deadly radiation and does not die even when exposed to giant amounts of radiation.
Expose any living organism to a slightly higher dose of radiation and it will eventually die due to gene mutation. It does not matter if it is human, plant, bacteria, animal… And then you have Deinococcus radiodurans.
Deinococcus radiodurans was discovered in 1956 when scientists wanted to find out if blasting canned meat with gamma radiation will make it last longer, since the radiation would kill the bacteria. After a few days, the meat went bad because Deinococcus radiodurans in the meant survived.
To understand how it is immune, you first have to understand how radiation kills.
Radiation kills by severely damaging your DNA. DNA stores information on how your body makes proteins to keep you alive. Your body reads this “code” and makes good proteins. However, when radiation damages your DNA, your body starts to make “bad proteins”. And if one of those bad proteins ends up in a cell, that cell then multiples with the bad proteins, meaning it will ruin your day.
Now, the human body does have a defense mechanism to fix the broken DNA. However, it can only do so much. After a certain amount of damage, our DNA cannot “fix itself” and most likely leads to death.
Now, Deinococcus radiodurans is no different. When exposed to radiation, Deinococcus’s DNA is damaged, too. However, the enzymes responsible for rearing the DNA are way more efficient and faster than ours. Repairs can be done in 6 hours, where our DNA can take weeks. Even when exposed to 5000 Grays, the bacteria manages to repair itself. 6 is enough to kill a human, by the way.
The origin of Deinococcus radiodurans isn’t 100% certain, but scientists believe that it is a side-effect of living in very dry conditions. Good thing is, it can be used to clean toxic waste sites.
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