Major biological discoveryâ¦inside the ChernobylÂ reactor??
This slime, a collection of several fungi actually, was more than just surviving in a radioactive environment, it was actually using gamma radiation as a food source. Samples of these bacteria grew significantly faster when exposed to gamma radiation at 500 times the normal background radiation level. The fungi appear to use melanin, a chemical found in human skin as well, in the same fashion as plants use chlorophyll. That is to say, the melanin molecule gets struck by a gamma ray and its chemistry is altered. This is an amazing discovery, no one had even suspected that something like this was possible.
(The above image was released into the public domain by its author. Credit: Jason Minshull.)
Possibly this could also be used to create plants or mushrooms that could grow in space, serving as a food source for space travellers. Maybe these fungi could be modified and used somehow to clean up radiation contaminated environments. Thereâ™s quite a few of those, in fact the disposal of radioactive waste is still a huge and unsolved problem. Now the fungi couldnâ™t actually eat the radioactive isotopes, Iâ™m not saying that, but if they can live in radioactive environments they might be used to somehow scour out or concentrate the radioactive isotopes in such a way as to facilitate their clean up.
Imagine, thereâ™s fallout from a nuclear accident and what do the guys in suits do? They show up, spray mushroom spores over everything, and a few weeks later the mushrooms are harvested and disposed of while the contaminated area is now radiation free. It would certainly be useful, the picture at the top shows the still abandoned town of Priyat, Ukraine. It was built to house the workers