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The Chernobyl fungus could protect astronauts from radiation on deep missions



A type of fungus found at the site of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster was sent into space in a research project that aims to keep astronauts at risk of radiation in deep space missions.

“The biggest risk to humans in deep space exploration missions is radiation,” the scientists explain in a summary of an article uploaded to the bioRxiv prepress server for biology. The fungus, which thrives at the Chernobyl site, appears to perform “radiosynthesis” using melanin to convert gamma radiation into chemical energy.

The impact of radiation is a particular concern for long-lasting space flows in places like Mars.

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Scientists from the University of North Carolina Charlotte, Stanford University and the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics launched the research project, which used the fungus Cladosporium sphaerospermum. Astronauts controlled a petri dish containing the fungus on the International Space Station, according to Phys.org.

Reactor number four of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant is seen in the photo in the archive on December 2, 1986 after work was completed to bury it in concrete after the explosion at the plant.

Reactor number four of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant is seen in the photo in the archive on December 2, 1986 after work was completed to bury it in concrete after the explosion at the plant.
(Reuters)

“The growth of Cladosporium sphaerospermum and its ability to attenuate ionizing radiation, was studied aboard the International Space Station (ISS) for a period of 30 days, as an analog in housing on the surface of Mars” , the researchers explained in the summary published in bioRxiv.

The study found that the fungus can be grown in space.

“By designing a subtle but simple experimental facility, implemented as a small payload, it could be shown that the melanized fungus C. sphaerospermum can be grown in LEO [Low Earth Orbit]“Although they are subject to the unique microgravity and radiation environment of the SIS,” the researchers wrote. “Growth characteristics suggest that the fungus not only adapts and protects against space radiation and protects according to Earth-based analog studies.”

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Another innovative investigation related to the Chernobyl disaster is underway.

Earlier this year, for example, researchers at the University of Sheffield in the United Kingdom announced the development of materials they say could be used to help dismantle the Chernobyl nuclear reactor sites and the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan. . Researchers, developed with scientists in Ukraine, can simulate fuel-containing materials (LFCMs) that are hampering dismantling efforts at nuclear disaster sites, the researchers say.

“LFCMs are a mixture of molten, highly radioactive nuclear fuel and building materials that fuse during a nuclear fusion,” the researchers said in a statement. However, there are very few samples of hazardous material available to study, so the simulated material could help scientists plan future unloading efforts at nuclear sites.

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The research is published in the journal Nature Materials Degradation.

Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers




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