Inspired by themes such as diversity and discrimination, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby created the mutant group of the X-Men, formed by five teens, in September 1963, even before the term mutation became of common use.
Mutants, unlike other superheroes, did not acquire their power from some more or less random accident or exposure to a certain type of radiation, but the power lies in their genetics, via the X gene, from birth. Superpower usually manifests itself in adolescence and causes many problems to teens. That is why Professor Charles Xavier (also a mutant), as one of the greatest telepaths on Earth, decides to found the School for Gifted Youth just outside New York in Westchester County, with the aim of helping and training kids to manage their superpower.
But let’s find out who in the real world discovered the mysteries of the DNA molecule and what the implications of the interaction of radiation with matter and with our genetic heritage can be. We are going to explore the medical physics specialist’s role in the radiobiology field.
Deoxyribonucleic acid or DNA was first discovered and isolated in 1869 by the Swiss chemist Friedrich Miescher However the discovery of the double helix structure of DNA, home to the genetic heritage of every living being, did not happen until February 1953. The discovery was made by the young biologist James Watson and the physicist Francis Crick at the University of Cambridge.
The exposure to ionizing radiation, i.e. those radiations that carry enough energy to unchain electrons from atoms or molecules, can lead to the rupture of the double helix DNA, resulting in the demise of the affected cell or its gene mutation, as happened to the X-men. In radiotherapy, for the therapeutic plan to be effective, it needs to target the DNA of cancer cells.
Radiobiology is the multidisciplinary subject in which the Medical Physicist is the professional figure who studies the processes underlying the interaction of radiation with biological matter. They produce predictive models of planned situations, such as those of radiotherapy or of exposures caused by accidents or emergency.