Towards Radiation-Resistant Humans

Evolved human biochemistry is suboptimal in some intriguing ways - we don't heal as well as some other species, for example. Here, EurekAlert! notes that our biochemistry is not as radiation-resistant as it might be either: "More than half of all cancer patients are treated at least in part with radiation ... But the same radiation that kills cancer cells can also destroy healthy ones, causing side effects such as nausea and vomiting, skin sores and rashes, and weakness and fatigue. Long-term radiation exposure can lead to the scarring and death of normal tissue. [Researchers] have identified a biochemical signaling pathway that can profoundly influence what happens to both cancerous and healthy cells when they are exposed to radiation. In mouse experiments, they found that blocking a molecule called thrombospondin-1 from binding to its cell surface receptor, called CD47, affords normal tissues nearly complete protection from both standard and very high doses of radiation. ... We almost couldn't believe what we were seeing. This dramatic protective effect occurred in skin, muscle and bone marrow cells, which is very encouraging. Cells that might have died of radiation exposure remained viable and functional when pre-treated with agents that interfere with the thrombospondin-1/CD47 pathway." Given enough time, many beneficial changes to human biochemistry will be possible and affordable.



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