Astronaut food from chernobyl

From the benefit of radioactively disposed mushrooms

On a long-way space trip is little so reliable for the fraction as the cosmic radiation – even if, about neptune or pluto level, the sun has shrunk to a small light spot. With justified in Chernobyl newly discovered mushroom species, astronauts could take advantage of the radiation.

Arturo Casadevall read them years ago that samples extracted from inside the over the damaged Chernobyl reactor built sarcophagus of robots showed a rich fungal flora, this caught the attention of microbiologists. At least 37 species of fungi have settled there on the walls and enjoyed gesundesten growth. It is not unusual species – quite ordinary molds such as Aspergillus versicolor certain image.

However, a peculiarity was observed: the strong the radioactive radiation was, which influenced the fungi, the highly the proportion of melanine in the biomass proved. The pigment, which, among other things, causes the different color of human skin, is considered to be antioxidant in mushrooms, which prevents the harmful effect of oxidation processes.

The cells of the melanin-containing mushroom type Cladosporium Sphaerospermum escapes the researchers in an attempt gradually and after each food – and yet they still made melanin under the influence of ionizing radiation. (Photo: Yeshiva University)

For Casadevall, which leads the microbiological department in New York on Albert Einstein College for Medicine of Yeshiva University in New York, the observations from Chernobyl were the reason to examine the influence of radioactivity on mushrooms more precisely.

With interesting results, the research team led by Casadevall now veroffentlichte of Sciences in the Public Library of Science (PloS) of the US Academy. The discovery of the research: Mushrooms are not only organic substances into their components break down – what we previously saw as their main function. They are also able to take a similar function like plants and produce biomass from inorganic substances.

The process is apparently the photosynthesis in plants. Only he is not based on the green chlorophyll, but on melanin – and he does not use light, but ionizing radiation. This thesis tested the scientists in laboratory experiments at three different fungus species. In each of these species showed that radioactive radiation stimulated cell growth – right when the cells contained melanin. The pigment apparently not only acts as protection. This affected both mushroom species, which were excited to melanin production, as well as those which have already contained melanine.

The complete process, as melanin could convert energy to radioactive radiation, the scientists have not yet understood. After all, however, they could already prove the first step in this: that ionizing radiation owe the electron structure of the pigment. This is a necessary requirement for energy conversion – but not yet your final proof. Because the melanin in the fungal cells chemically resembles the in human skin, study author Casadevall is even on the speculation that the pigment also supplies our skin with energy:

Not enough to keep a beach run, but adequate to lift the eyelid.

Apart from that Melanin could serve astronauts containing astronauts as a food source (not directly – most of the mushroom species considered are more harmful), this results in another exciting consequence: should it be a widespread phenomena, one had to be the energy balance of the Object. Because, so Casadevall, "The realm of the mushrooms is far rough than every plant or animal kingdom".

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