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Scientists have found that a Chernobyl fungus that eats radiation, turning it into food, is so successful that they have sent samples to ISS to see how it responses to space radiation.
By growing it in the International Space Station, where the radiation level is hiked compared to that on Earth, Venkateswaran and Professor Clay Wang of the University of Southern California were able to monitor mutation. When microorganisms are put under more stressful environments, they release different molecules, which could further out understanding of the fungi and how it can be used to develop radiation-blocking drugs for humans.
It is also possible that the fungus could be adapted for other uses.
Kasthuri Venkateswaran, a research scientist at NASA who is leading the experiments on the Cryptococcus neoformans fungi, believes that by extracting its radiation-absorbing power and manufacturing it in drug form, it could be used as a ‘sun block’ against toxic rays.
It would allow cancer patients undergoing radiation therapy, nuclear power plant engineers and airline pilots to operate without fear of absorbing a deadly dose of rays, Venkateswaran envisaged to Scientific American magazine.
The fungi’s radiation-converting power could also be used to power electrical appliances, with it being touted as a possible biological answer to solar panels.
It appears that the fungi’s high level of melanin contributes to its ability to do this.