Researchers have created a lightweight multifunctional biomaterial that protects human tissue well from harmful radiation.
Melanin is found in most animal and plant organisms, as well as bacteria and fungi. Although this substance is mainly known for pigmentation, it also protects cells from radiation. Under normal terrestrial conditions, he effectively copes with his task, but he can no longer cope with the increased level of radiation (during air travel or radiation therapy).
Astronauts are exposed to an even greater effect of radiation, whose DNA begins to be damaged during a long stay in open space, and while traveling to Mars, a person can receive 700 times more radiation than on Earth. Therefore, scientists from Northwestern University decided to improve melanin by enriching it with selenium..
The new biomaterial, called selenomelanin, is significantly lighter and more elastic than traditional radiation shielding materials such as lead. Therefore, it can be applied to human skin as a sunscreen, or used as a protective coating for cargo..
Although its samples are now being examined on the ISS, surface tests have shown that after receiving a dose of radiation that would be fatal to humans, only cells treated with the new compound showed a normal life cycle..
Human cells treated with selenomelanin nanoparticles.
Parallel tests have shown that some microorganisms can synthesize selenomelanin in the presence of a rich source of selenium in the environment.
Recall that in May, researchers also announced the development of a polymer composite that protects against radiation no worse than lead..
text: Ilya Bauer, photo: Shutterstock, Northwestern University
Scientists synthesized a new biomaterial to protect astronauts from radiation