Tuesday, December 17, 2019

The Tardigrade: a key to alien life?

“Something in Your Body Can Make You Invulnerable to Radiation” , by Riddle, gives a clue as to how life could evolve on a planet near a red dwarf with extremely variable solar radiation storms. Ot, "How can you swim in a spent nuclear fuel pool and stay alive?" 

The video discusses a tiny worm-like animal called the tardigrade, which can go into superhibernation when dehydrated and can shelter itself from radiation.  It can live in extreme environments all over the world. A recent Israeli spacecraft crashed on the Moon probably contaminated the Moon with them, and they might stay in suspended animation forever.
The tardigrade makes special proteins that can be deployed to shelter or coat DNA helices.  But vertebrates can also make these proteins.  Theoretically, on another planet with radiation variation, an animal’s DNA strands could be coated with this protein, rather like insulation (although myelin in mammalian nervous systems accomplishes some of this).

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