The effect of ultraviolet radiation and the antioxidant curcumin on the longevity, fertility, and physical structure of Drosophila melanogaster: Can we defend our DNA?

(1) Benton Middle School, Manassas, VA

Ultraviolet (UV) radiation is known to alter DNA structure and impair cellular function in all living organisms. One proposed mechanism of injury involves the production of harmful free radicals. The DNA damage caused by UV radiation can lead to a myriad of medical issues, but there is limited research on potential rescue interventions. However, studies have suggested that naturally occurring antioxidants may exert their positive influence on an organism by reducing oxidative injury, which leads to the purpose of this project: to study the effects of UV radiation and determine whether antioxidant-enriched nutrition can combat the potential deleterious effects of UV radiation on Drosophila melanogaster. We hypothesized that UV radiation would diminish the lifespan and fertility of Drosophila, as well as causing physical abnormalities. We also predicted that Drosophila cultured in the presence of media enriched with the antioxidant curcumin would have enhanced lifespans and fertility. Finally, we hypothesized that raising Drosophila with curcumin-enriched media, would diminish the negative impact of UV radiation on the organism’s longevity and fertility. We found that UVB (320nm) radiation caused a 59% decrease in the Drosophila lifespan and mutagenic effects on flies' physical appearance, but did not significantly affect fertility. Curcumin significantly prolonged lifespan and enhanced fertility for both UV- and non-UV-exposed flies. Therefore, we conclude that curcumin can prolong lifespan, enhance fertility, and mitigate the deleterious effects of UV radiation on Drosophila. Our research demonstrates that we can harness the positive potential of natural antioxidants and use them as weapons in our war against radiation-induced diseases, including conditions like cancer.

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