Tardigrades are tiny creatures whose astonishing survival in the most extreme conditions allows them to easily be even under high ionizing radiation, thousands of times the lethal dose for humans. If tardigrades possess such impressive properties, then why not use their DNA to combine it with our cells and become more resilient during the colonization of other planets?
Tardigrades on Mars
Everyone knows that harmful cosmic radiation, radiation and weightlessness have a strong negative effect on the health of astronauts while they are outside our home planet. Despite this, Chris Mason, a geneticist and professor of physiology and biophysics at Weil Cornell University in New York, explored many different ways of modifying the human body to overcome nature’s inherent limitations in order to expand the human species as far as possible into the solar system. So, one of the strangest and most unusual ways that could protect future astronauts in missions to Mars could be the inclusion of DNA of tardigrades in human tissues.
One of the most negative factors that have a negative effect on the human body while it is on the Red Planet may be radiation exposure. If scientists could find a way to make human cells more resistant to radiation, astronauts could stay healthy for a longer time outside the Earth.
In order to be able to genetically design a person in order to better survive on another planet, scientists could try several approaches at once. So, one of the potential ways of transforming a person into a slightly different form could be epigenetic engineering, which is able to turn on or turn off certain genes of our organism.
Another even more unusual way would be to combine the DNA of the most “unkillable” creatures of the Earth with human cells. Such an incredible concept was proposed and studied in detail back in 2016, when the genetic design of people for space travel was considered from the point of view of natural changes in human physiology. At the same time, considering the possibility of transforming a person into a more stable form, Chris Mason rightly noted that the idea of editing human genes is still controversial and forbidden in most countries of the world.
Scientists are confident that even if humanity at some point decides to abandon the ability to edit human genes, some of the features of tardigrades can help us find medicines that at least partially cover the health damage of future generations of astronauts. Well, who knows, maybe these amazing creatures will help scientists find a way to not only cure humanity of disease, but also turn it into a truly interplanetary form.