Thursday, May 24, 2007

Using radioactivity to grow

No, not giant ants. There's a hint that radiation can make melanin structures process some chemicals faster. The study report discusses fairly obscure metabolic processes, and has it is possible thats in it, but the results (suggested by the presence of lively growths of fungi in the Chernobyl reactor!) are things like
Melanized Wangiella dermatitidis and Cryptococcus neoformans cells exposed to ionizing radiation approximately 500 times higher than background grew significantly faster as indicated by higher CFUs, more dry weight biomass and 3-fold greater incorporation of 14C-acetate than non-irradiated melanized cells or irradiated albino mutants. In addition, radiation enhanced the growth of melanized Cladosporium sphaerospermum cells under limited nutrients conditions.


Exposure of melanin to ionizing radiation, and possibly other forms of electromagnetic radiation, changes its electronic properties. Melanized fungal cells manifested increased growth relative to non-melanized cells after exposure to ionizing radiation, raising intriguing questions about a potential role for melanin in energy capture and utilization.

Well, why not? We have extremophiles that reduce iron, others that oxidize it, oxidize sulfer--why not some that finesse ionizing radiation?

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