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News Article | May 7, 2017
Site: motherboard.vice.com

This is a series around POWER, a Motherboard 360/VR documentary about nuclear energy. Follow along here. Comic book logic dictates that a high dose of radiation will turn you in the Hulk, Godzilla, Radioactive Man, or any number of other radiation-induced superbeings. In real life, it's more likely to be a cause of deleterious mutations than a shortcut to enhanced abilities, as shown by major ecological damage in nuclear meltdown fallout zones, like Chernobyl and Fukushima. These contaminated regions have become a popular destination for scientists interested in the immediate and long-term impact of radiation on wildlife, which has led to the formation of intriguing niche disciplines, like radioecology and radiobiology. Watch more on Motherboard in 360/VR: Nuclear From Above Understanding how living organisms adapt to radiation doses has a range of applications, from medicine to conservation, but one of the most overlooked is preparation for long-duration human space missions and interplanetary colonization, both of which involve sustained exposure to higher radiation doses than what we experience on Earth's surface. An experiment conducted on the International Space Station (ISS) last year examined this idea with the help of eight fungi species sourced from the Chernobyl exclusion zone. These strains sprung up in the wake of the 1986 meltdown, and two of them— Cladosporium moulds—seem to prefer radioactive surfaces. The fungal samples were curated by a team led by Kasthuri Venkateswaran, a senior research scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, who goes by Venkat for short. Read More: Chernobyl Microbes Are Heading to the International Space Station "The radiation seen at Chernobyl is high, but this black fungi popped up first [after the meltdown] compared even to the bacteria," Venkat told me over the phone. "That is how we selected those fungi, from such a radiation-rich environment. These fungi persisted due to some sort of protein-coding and biomolecule information that protect against the radiation level." Would ingesting such a hardy mould give one radioactive superpowers? Not quite—or more accurately, not yet. The eventual goal of Venkat's research is to develop a fungi-based "sunblock" for outer space radiation that could be used to protect humans from the harmful effects of long-term exposure. The fungi was returned to Earth just a few months ago, so the results are preliminary, but Venkat and his colleagues are eager to pursue the research further. "We have to take all the precautions before building a human habitation on Mars and beyond," he told me. In addition to helping humans become more radiation-resistant, studying the wildlife in fallout regions can also yield insight into engineering crops that can survive the radiation environment beyond Earth—especially highly irradiated worlds like those in the Jupiter system. The Chernobyl exclusion zone is significantly more radioactive than the interior of proposed long-duration spacecraft, which makes it a bad direct analogy to outer space. But the ways in which crops develop tolerance to contaminated environments is rich with clues about surviving sustained doses of cosmic radiation. "Radiation-resistant genes can be incorporated into yeast cells that produce beer so that humans are willing to go to space—they will have a better beer to drink," Venkat said, as one example. Fallout zones are also useful testbeds for studying astrobiological questions about the search for aliens on other worlds, and the origins of life on our own planet. Flax crops grown at Chernobyl in the decades since the meltdown have demonstrated increasing resistance to contamination, for instance, leading some researchers to wonder if their genes are a kind of vestigial time capsule to the dawn of life on Earth. "My favorite speculation is that when life on Earth was evolving, radioactivity was much more present on Earth's surface than is today," Martin Hajduch, a senior scientist at the Slovak Academy of Sciences' Institute of Plant Genetics and Biotechnology, said of his research into Chernobyl flax. "And so the plants are somehow 'remembering' it, [which is] what helped them to adapt in Chernobyl's radioactive area." In this way, the world's worst nuclear disasters, which have threatened the health of our planet, may now help us understand our origins on Earth, and learn to survive the harsh conditions beyond it. Subscribe to Science Solved It, Motherboard's new show about the greatest mysteries that were solved by science.

Oslovicova V.,Slovak University of Agriculture | Simmonds J.R.,John Innes Center | Snape J.W.,John Innes Center | Galova Z.,Slovak University of Agriculture | And 3 more authors.
Cereal Research Communications | Year: 2014

In this study we evaluate the genetic diversity of a selection of wheat accessions characteristically grown and adapted to mid-European environments, using various molecular marker systems. Thirty-three simple sequence repeat (SSR) markers were used alongside genic markers for known dwarfing genes, flowering time genes, and grain hardness genes, namely Rht-B1, Rht-D1, Ppd-D1, Vrn-A1, Vrn-B1, Vrn-D1 and Pinb-D1. In addition, variation was scored for the high-molecular-weight glutenin storage proteins, responsible for dough technological quality. A dendrogram was constructed using the UPGMA algorithm, based on the molecular data and the country of origin, giving an overview of their genetic similarity and relationships. The potential for the use of some agronomic traits in breeding, by providing a basis for multi-trait genetic selection in wheat breeding programs is discussed. Estimating the breeding values of crops using multiple genetic markers might help in breeding for varieties with good technological quality for growing under desired climatic conditions.

Iliev I.,University of Forestry | Scaltsoyiannes A.,Aristotle University of Thessaloniki | Tsaktsira M.,Aristotle University of Thessaloniki | Gajdosova A.,Institute of Plant Genetics and Biotechnology
Acta Horticulturae | Year: 2010

Fifty-year-old specimens of Betula pendula 'Dalecarlica', 'Fastigiata', 'Purpurea', 'Youngii', and var. typica were used as donor plants. For callus induction, leaves obtained from in vitro were used as initial explants. The effects of the cultivar types and different media (MS, WPM and S) supplemented with zeatin (2, 5, and 10 mg L -1) or BA (0.5, 0.8, and 1.0 mg L -1) on adventitious bud formation from callus segments were studied. The best regeneration potential was observed in 'Youngii' and the purest in 'dalecarlica'. The best results were obtained on medium S containing 5 and 10 mg L -1 zeatin. The effect of IBA (0.3 and 0.5 mg L -1), NAA (0.3 and 0.5 mg L -1) and their combinations on the rooting of adventitious shoots was investigated. The highest percentage of rooting (100%) and the best root system was achieved on half-strength MS medium in combination with 0.3 mg L -1 IBA and 0.3 mg L -1 NAA. The high air humidity and the type of substrate were important factors for successful acclimatization. Maximum survival of plants (from 98.3 ± 1.7% up to 100.0 ± 0.0%) was obtained by opening the test tubes in the cultivation room for a period of 6 days, ensuring high air humidity for 14 days, and utilizing peat. The genotypes of the donor and in vitro propagated plants were analyzed by seven isozyme systems (GOT, IDH, LAP, MDH, PGI, PGM, and 6- PGD). Changes of the isozyme fractions of in vitro- propagated plants in comparison with the donor plants were not found.

Klubicova K.,Slovak Academy of Sciences | Rashydov N.M.,Institute of Cell Biology and Genetic Engineering | Hajduch M.,Institute of Plant Genetics and Biotechnology | Hajduch M.,Slovak Academy of Sciences
Methods in Molecular Biology | Year: 2014

Two serious nuclear accidents during the past quarter of a century contaminated large agricultural areas with radioactivity. The remediation and possible recovery of radio-contaminated areas for agricultural purposes require comprehensive characterization of plants grown in such places. Here we describe the quantitative proteomics method that we use to analyze proteins isolated from seeds of plants grown in radioactive Chernobyl zone. © 2014 Springer Science+Business Media, LLC.

Agency: European Commission | Branch: FP7 | Program: MC-IRSES | Phase: FP7-PEOPLE-2013-IRSES | Award Amount: 285.00K | Year: 2013

Anthropogenic activities continue to impact the environment causing soil and ground water contamination in many regions and the effects are often persistent especially where heavy metals and radioactive substances have been released. Ecological problems can be particularly severe in the case of atomic power facilities and recent occurrences (Japan) indicate that the Chernobyl incident in 1986 was by no means unique. Moreover, such accidents hold a profound dread factor for the general population. Environmental pollution can be equally profound and even more persistent in the case of mining waste which contaminates large areas of Europe with diverse heavy metals. Plants adapt to chronic radiation and heavy metal contamination as demonstrated by re-colonization of polluted areas. This project aims to understand the basic principles of protective mechanisms and how such pollution affects the stability of the genome. We propose to establish a research network to evaluate and exploit unique resources in the Chernobyl zone and in mining sites (Wales, UK) as open area laboratories for studying how changes of DNA are coordinated with internal cellular networks during plant response to these pollutants. We use a combination of genetic, cell biological, molecular and evolutionary strategies. Part of the project is devoted to crop plants and their ability to grow in contaminated sites with the idea to increase productivity and safety. For the first time, eight research teams with complementary experience in radiation and other plant stresses will cooperate for solving the common for Europe problem of survival in contaminated nature. This will provide the insights on an increasingly detailed knowledge of the regulatory mechanisms for plant stress tolerance and gives an opportunity to see how the problems of Chernobyl and other contaminated places could be solved by scientists and what could be done in order to secure human life against environmental pollution.

Agency: European Commission | Branch: FP7 | Program: MC-IRG | Phase: PEOPLE-2007-4-3.IRG | Award Amount: 100.00K | Year: 2007

With each passing year since Chernobyl accident, more questions arise about the potential for organisms adapt to radiation exposure. The explosion of one of the four reactors of Chernobyl nuclear power plant on 26 April 1986 caused worst environmental nuclear disaster in the history. It transported vast amounts of radioactive material into the atmosphere, much of which was subsequently deposited not only in the immediate vicinity of power plant in Ukraine, Belarus and Russia, but over the large parts of Europe. In this proposal, quantitative protein reference maps will be used to identify differentially expressed proteins in developing embryo, endosperm and seed coats of Chernobyl-grown plants compared to control. These reference maps will be generated during five stages of soybean and flax seed development using two-dimensional electrophoresis (2-DE) in combination with liquid chromatography connected with tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) for protein identification.

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