Animal study suggests deep space travel may significantly damage GI function in astronauts

phys.org | 10/1/2018 | Staff
camkizzle (Posted by) Level 3
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Simulations with animal models meant to mirror galactic cosmic radiation exposure to astronauts are raising red flags for investigators at Georgetown University Medical Center (GUMC) about the health of astronauts during long voyages, such as to Mars.

Their most recent study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), suggests that deep space bombardment by galactic cosmic radiation (GCR) could significantly damage gastrointestinal (GI) tissue leading to long-term functional alterations. The study also raises concern about high risk of tumor development in the stomach and colon.

Work - Impairment - Brain - Tissue - Space

Their previous work has highlighted potential impairment to brain tissue as well as accelerated aging on long space trips due to the effect of energetic heavy ions, which don't affect Earthlings due to the protective global magnetosphere.

"Heavy ions such as iron and silicon are damaging because of their greater mass compared to no-mass photons such as x-rays and gamma (γ)-rays prevalent on earth as well as low mass protons in outer space," says the study's senior investigator, Kamal Datta, MD, an associate professor in the Department of Biochemistry and a project leader of the NASA Specialized Center of Research (NSCOR) at GUMC.

Shielding - Technology - Astronauts - Effects - Ion

"With the current shielding technology, it is difficult to protect astronauts from the adverse effects of heavy ion radiation. Although there may be a way to use medicines to counter these effects, no such agent has been developed yet," says Datta, also a member of Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center. "While short trips, like the times astronauts traveled to the Moon, may not expose them to this level of damage, the real concern is lasting injury from a long trip such as a Mars or other deep space missions which would be much longer" he says.

The GI tract is a self-renewing tissue with continuous cell division/proliferation, the researchers say. The mucosal (top)...
(Excerpt) Read more at: phys.org
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