Saturday, March 29, 2008

Aquatic Animals the Answer to DNA protection?

- post by Tom Hockings (4177030)

The freshwater Bdelloid Rotifer

Recently a team of scientists from Harvard University have made detailed studies of the freshwater invertebrates bdelloid rotifers in an attempt to understand their remarkable genetic make-up. Bdelloid rotifers are the most common of freshwater Metazoa that you can find in your pond, but these 0.5 mm organisms are more than they seem. With an ability to live hundreds of years when dried or frozen and the physiology to withstand extreme amounts of gamma radiation, the genetic make-up of these organisms is looking increasingly promising. The main attraction of these little creatures however lies with its extreme genetic resistance to radiation, continuing to reproduce after large doses of gamma radiation, much greater than that tolerated by other any other studied species.

The reason this is so important is because the effects of radiation have long been linked to the cause of inflammation, cancer and premature ageing. The hope is that this new study will start off new lines of research into these problems. "They are able to recover and resume normal reproduction after receiving a dose of radiation that shatters their genomes, causing hundreds of DNA double-strand breaks which they are nevertheless able to repair." says Meselson, Thomas Dudley Cabot Professor of the Natural Sciences in Harvard's Faculty of Arts and Sciences.

This regenerative quality has been deemed interesting enough to further their studies, with the hopeful end product being a way to repair damaged genetic material and DNA strands in our human genome. While the bdelloid rotifers have been studied for nearly over 300 years, they are only finally being understood lately. It has been observed that it’s actually their ability to protect their DNA repairing tools rather than their DNA which is proving to make them so remarkable. Hopefully with further study and research the secrets of this organism will be used to fight cancer and other genetic ailments.


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