ScienceNews article on Tardigrades defying death fails to expand beyond the primary research article
The ScienceNews article discusses the findings surrounding tardigrades’ unique ability to survive under harsh and diverse conditions. Tardigrades are able to survive X-rays, cosmic rays, and being given hydrogen peroxide. It was found that the protein, Dsup (damage suppressor), acts as a shield for the species Ramazzottius varieornatus from radiation because it surrounds nucleosomes and prevents the hydroxyl radicals formed from the radiation and chemical exposure from damaging the DNA. Researchers also discovered that another species, Hypsibius exemparis has a protein similar to Dsup that also acts as a shield to protect the DNA.
The author is successful in including important points from the original journal in a way that is free of jargon and is suitable to their target audience. Furthermore, the author’s contact information, biography, and the other articles they have written are readily available to readers, adding to the article’s overall credibility. The article’s presentation is clean and includes pictures that provide visual aid for further understanding of the article and journal’s content.
While the author flawlessly incorporates key aspects of the original journal, the title provides no information or specific finding that the researchers made. The title should have added some sort of explanation as to how tardigrades actually avoid death, rather than simply being called “How tardigrades protect their DNA to defy death”. While the title is representative of the topic of discussion in the article, there is no information or findings indicated from the original journal. Furthermore, the author fails to provide perspectives from multiple outside sources.
When reading Dr. Tina Hesman Saey’s news story titled “How tardigrades protect their DNA to defy death” on ScienceNews you may start off with curiosity and excitement to learn more on how these little water bears (a more common name for Tardigrades) have the ability to survive in some of the most harsh conditions in our universe. You will be greeted with a stunning SEM (scanning election microscope) image of one of the cute little water bears and then you read your way through an almost laughably short, 278 word news article and come to the end thinking, “did I actually learn how these little guys protect their DNA?”.
This news article is in response to a then recently published journal article in eLife on the work of Carolina Chavez and colleagues at the University of California, San Diego. The journal article goes into detail on a protein that Tardigrades possess, named Dsup for Damage suppressor, that associates with the animals DNA and protects the DNA from hydroxy radicals that are formed after exposure to ionizing radiation. Hydroxy radicals are essentially a death sentence for DNA as they are highly reactive oxygen species (ROS) that will go and react with pretty much anything. ROS are especially dangerous to life forms as the radicals can either break apart strands of DNA or cause changes to the nucleobases of the DNA which in turn leads to incorrect sequences being replicated and passed on to new cells thus leading to subsequent mutations. The Dsup protein interacts with strands of DNA, wrapping around them and acting as a protective shield against hydroxy radical attack. Unfortunately, the exact mechanism as to how the Dsup protein accomplishes this miraculous task is still unknown. Because of this, one could argue that the answer to the question, “how tardigrades protect their DNA to defy death” is still not fully known. Dr. Tina Hesman Saey does not elaborate on this thought though. Instead, the article is ended with the conclusion that the mere existence of the Dsup protein is the answer to the question when in reality, it only adds another layer to the true answer that has yet to be discovered.
What makes this news article even worse is that after a bit of investigating through the references in the original journal article, one would learn that the experiments performed in the eLife article were already done three years prior. The credit for the discovery of this Dsup protein and how it functions should also be considered for Takuma Hashimoto, who published articles in Nature Communications in 2016 and in Life in 2017 that detail this protein and its interaction with DNA.
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