long distances in space could destroy astronauts’ guts, according
to a major newNasa-funded
research raises substantial red flags about the possibility of
humans taking journeys to places such as Mars.
follows previous studies that suggested such journeys could do
significant damage to people’s brains and might age them
new research subjected mice to the same
kinds of bombardment by galactic cosmic radiation that
would affect humans if they were on long space journeys.
radiation could cause damage to the gastrointestinal tissue
that would lead to long-term functional alterations. And the study
also raises concerns that those astronauts would be at high risk
of developing tumours in their stomach and colon.
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,” said the study’s senior investigator, Kamal
Datta, a senior scientist at Georgetown University Medical
Centre and Nasa.
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.
short trips, like the times astronauts travelled 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.”
GI tract is in a continuous state of self-renewal and replacement,
as its cells continually change. The top layer is replaced
every three to five days as new cells move to take the place of
disturbance of this replacement mechanism leads to malfunctioning
of physiologic processes such as nutrient absorption and starts
pathologic processes such as cancer,” said Albert
Fornace Jr, the director of the NASA Specialised Centre of
Research at GUMC.
though the dose given to the mice was very low, it lasted a long
time to simulate the effect of a deep space mission. And it
appears that the changes are irreversible.
now believe that the same problems could apply to other organs and
that further work needs to be done to understand the full damage
travelmight do to human bodies.
have documented the effects of deep space radiation on some vital
organs, but we believe that similar damage responses may occur in
many organs,” says Mr Datta. “It is important to understand
these effects in advance so we can do everything we can to protect
our future space travellers.”