Chernobyl fungus can protect astronauts from radiation on deep space missions

A type of fungus found at the site of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster was sent into space in a research project aimed at protecting astronauts from radiation on deep space missions.

“Radiation is the greatest threat to humans on deep space exploration missions,” scientists have explained in the abstract of a paper uploaded to the bioreactive preferred server for biology. The fungal gamma that grows at the Chernobyl site demonstrate “radiosynthesis”, using melanin to convert radiation into chemical energy.

The impact of radiation is of particular concern to long-term astronauts at places such as Mars.

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Scientists from the University of North Carolina Charlotte, Stanford University, and the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics set up a research project using the fungus Cladoceporium spherosperm. According to, a petri dish containing fungi was monitored by astronauts on the International Space Station.

The number four reactor at the Chernobyl nuclear plant is seen in a file photo dated December 2, 1986, after completing work to solidify it after the explosion at the plant.

Researchers reported in an abstract published in Biorexivive that the growth of Clodosporium spherosperm and the ability to eclipse ionizing radiation, was studied in an interval of 30 days on the International Space Station (ISS). .

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

“Through the design of a subtle yet simple experimental setup implemented as a small single payload, it can be shown that the molten fungus C. spherospermum can be cultivated in Leo. [Low Earth Orbit], While the unique microgravity and radiation of the ISS are subject to the environment, ”the researchers wrote. “The characteristics of evolution further suggest that the fungus does not only move and shield against space radiation according to Earth’s study.”

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Other innovative research related to the Chernobyl disaster is taking place.

Earlier this year, for example, researchers at the University of Sheffield in the UK announced the development of materials that they say could be used to help with nuclear reactor sites in Chernobyl and the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan. Can. Materials developed with scientists in Ukraine can simulate lava-like fuel-rich materials (LFCMs) that are hindering decommissioning efforts at nuclear disaster sites, researchers say.

“LFCMs are a mixture of highly radioactive molten nuclear fuels and building materials that fuse together during nuclear deceleration,” the researchers explained in a statement. However, very few samples of hazardous materials are available for study, so the simulated material can help scientists plan future decommissioning 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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