The secret to its strength is a ring, Weizmann Institute researchers report in Science
Weizmann Institute scientists have found what makes the bacterium Deinococcus radiodurans the most radiation-resistant organism in the world: The microbe’s DNA is packed tightly into a ring. The findings, published in the January 10 issue of Science, solve a mystery that has long engaged the scientific community.
The red bacterium can withstand 1.5 million rads – a thousand times more than any other life form on Earth and three thousand that of humans. Its healthy appetite has made it a reliable worker at nuclear waste sites, where it eats up nuclear waste and transforms it into more disposable derivatives. The ability to withstand other extreme stresses, such as dehydration and low temperatures, makes the microbe one of the few life forms found on the North Pole. It is not surprising, then, that it has been the source of much curiosity worldwide, recently leading to a debate between NASA and Russian scientists – the latter saying that it originated on Mars, where radiation levels are higher.
Jeffrey J. Sussman | EurekAlert!
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