News Worms
News Worms

Travelling to Mars may increase leukaemia risk in humans

Travelling to Mars may increase leukaemia risk in humans

Senior project researcher and associate professor of regenerative medicine Dr. Christopher Porada said that radiation exposure could up the risk of leukemia in space travelers in two ways.

To make their discovery, the researchers transplanted human stem cells into mice and exposed them to the same kind of radiation astronauts would face in real deep space.

According to recent research from the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine, the deep space radiation that astronauts would encounter in a three year Mars mission could increase their risk of developing leukemia.

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Mars is always the human being's first destination chosen for deep-space exploration, with a shorter distance to Earth than its peers in solar system, shares similar national environment with the plant the human beings are now living.

The HSCs are a small minority of bone marrow cells (less than 0.1 percent), but they are a vital link in making cells crucial to fighting infections and transporting oxygen, the Wake Forest team explains.

Radiation practically shut the HSCs down, impeding their ability to produce blood cells by up to 80 percent. Among other long-term goals, the 146-page bill calls for a manned mission to Mars by the year 2033.

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The team did this by taking HSCs from healthy donors aged between 30 and 55 (to represent typical astronauts) and exposed them to simulated solar energetic particles and GCRs at the same levels one is expected to experience during a Mars mission.

"Radiation exposure at these levels was highly deleterious to HSC function, reducing their ability to produce nearly all types of blood cells, often by 60 to 80 percent", says Christopher Porada, senior researcher on the project. Exposed mice developed what researchers deemed to be T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Porada said that it is however rewarding to use their expertise in stem cells in order to help NASA in evaluating the potential health risks of space travel and hopefully develop certain strategies that would enable them to address these health hazards. "We found that genetic damage to HSCs directly led to leukemia". Secondly, radiation also altered the ability of HSCs to generate T and B cells, types of white blood cells involved in fighting foreign "invaders" like infections or tumour cells.

The researchers aren't just throwing problems at the Mars mission, though; as part of their work they're also looking into the use of a common dietary supplement for its ability to protect astronauts from the damaging effects of radiation.

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The space agency is yet to release official results from its unprecedented Twin Study, but early findings on twin brothers Scott and Mark Kelly already indicated that space travel dramatically changes human biology, such as gene expression.


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