HOW RA­DI­A­TION AF­FECTS DNA

BBC Earth (Asia) - - Science -

1. RA­DI­A­TION WAVES

Gamma and neu­tron waves, like those emit­ted in the ex­plo­sion of Lit­tle Boy over Hiroshima, are types of ‘ion­is­ing ra­di­a­tion’. This means that they have

enough en­ergy to knock elec­trons from atoms to cre­ate ions.

2. DNA DAM­AGE

DNA con­tains four bases – cy­to­sine, gua­nine, thymine and ade­nine. The ionised par­ti­cles can cause breaks in the struc­ture of DNA. Cells can re­pair some of these breaks, but they risk mak­ing mis­takes dur­ing the re­pair. Breaks can oc­cur across one

or both strands. Cells find it much harder to fix breaks across dou­ble strands.

3. CODE BREAK­ERS

It is also pos­si­ble for ra­di­a­tion to al­ter the ge­netic code di­rectly. Gamma and neu­tron ra­di­a­tion can change one of DNA’s bases into

another, or can even make two bases stick to­gether.

4. CAN­CER CRE­ATOR DNA con­tains four bases – cy­to­sine, gua­nine, thymine and ade­nine. The ionised par­ti­cles can cause breaks in the struc­ture of DNA. Cells can re­pair some of these breaks, but they risk mak­ing mis­takes dur­ing the re­pair. Breaks can oc­cur across one

or both strands. Cells find it much harder to fix breaks across dou­ble strands.

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