Unusual mushrooms that grow inside the Chernobyl nuclear reactor and “feed” on radiation, converting it into energy, can become the basis for new drugs that protect people from dangerous doses of radiation. These studies have been carried out for many years, according to the Daily Mail. But the unique experiments on board the ISS, as scientists hope, will help them get closer to the answer.
In 1991, five years after the catastrophic accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, researchers discovered that mysterious black mushrooms were growing on the walls of an abandoned radioactive reactor. Scientists became interested in how these microorganisms manage to survive in such extreme conditions, and began to study them in more detail. It turned out that the mushrooms grow in the direction of the radiation source, as if radiation “attracts” them, writes the Daily Mail.
It also turned out that they contain a large amount of melanin – the pigment that makes the skin of a person dark. And this allows unusual fungi to absorb radiation without harm to themselves and convert it into chemical energy, just as ordinary plants convert carbon dioxide and chlorophyll into oxygen and glucose through photosynthesis, the article says.
This unusual process, called “radio synthesis,” has attracted the attention of scientists who hope to discover new methods of protection against deadly radiation through these studies, the Daily Mail explains. According to NASA researcher Kasturi Venkatesvaran, who leads a project to study unique fungi of the species Cryptococcus neoformans, thanks to these experiments, it will be possible to create a new medicine that can block and neutralize the effect of radiation on the human body.
If scientists can create a tool that will be able to absorb radiation like mushrooms, this will protect many people who are in one way or another exposed to hazardous radiation from the negative effects. In particular, this would help cancer patients undergoing radiation therapy, as well as nuclear engineers, pilots, astronauts and many others, the article says.
It is also assumed that the ability of fungi to convert radiation into energy in the future can be used to fuel various electrical appliances. And this could be a “biological response” to existing solar panels, writes the Daily Mail. Such biotechnology can become quite promising, as it is non-toxic and biocompatible.
Studies on the possible use of mushrooms for medical purposes have been conducted for a long time. But in recent years, this has attracted more attention thanks to an experiment in which mushroom samples were sent to space. They were grown on the International Space Station, where radiation levels are higher than on Earth, and observed for possible mutations. When microorganisms enter a more stressful environment for them, they begin to secrete various molecules – and this helps scientists better understand what processes are taking place inside these microorganisms and how you can use them to develop drugs that block radiation, explained in the article.
The results of these experiments in space have not yet been published. Therefore, the world scientific community is looking forward to new information that can make a real breakthrough in the field of protecting the human body from radiation, concludes the Daily Mail.