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Sponges can survive massive doses of radiation without getting cancer

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A coral reef with a barrel sponge in Indonesia

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Sponges can live for thousands of years, grow continuously and lack an immune system, so they should be particularly prone to cancers. But sponges exposed to X-rays have survived 100 times the lethal dose for humans without tumours.

“They seem to be extraordinarily resistant to radiation,” says Angelo Fortunato at Arizona State University. In fact, sponges have the highest level of radiation resistance ever observed in any animal whose cells keep dividing throughout its lifetime – as opposed to creatures like tardigrades whose cells stop dividing.

Fortunato’s team has been studying …