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Deep Space Radiation Could Increase The Risk Of Leukemia For Space Travelers

First Posted: Mar 09, 2017 04:42 AM EST
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Space travelers including astronauts may be at risk of leukemia because of the effects of deep space radiation.
(Photo : MLordand God/YouTube screenshot)

The scientists from Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine conducted a study to gauge the effects of deep space radiation. They discovered that deep space radiation could heighten the risk of leukemia for space travelers, particularly the humans.

The findings of the study were published in the journal Leukemia. The study was funded by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The researchers examine the radiation impact on human hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs), which are not fully developed cells that could evolve into all types of blood cells. These include the cells that fight infections and malignant cells and against HIV and leukemia, according to New Atlas.

Christopher Porada, Ph.D. associate professor of regenerative medicine and senior researcher of the study, said that the results are troubling because they show radiation exposure could potentially increase the risk of leukemia in two ways. First, the genetic damage to HSCs leads to leukemia. Second, the radiation changed the ability of HSCs to produce T and B cells, which are the type of white blood cells that fight foreign "invaders" like infections or tumor cells. Porada also said that this may lessen the ability of the astronaut's immune system to get rid of malignant cells that arise because of radiation-induced mutations.

NASA has been conducting research and studies about the effects of radiation, confinement and isolation, microgravity, distance from Earth and hostile and closed environments. This is to ensure the space missions including the journey to other planets such as Mars in the coming years as well as the space explorers safe.

In the current study, the researchers are also testing a common dietary supplement that could protect the astronauts from the damaging effects of radiation, according to Medical Xpress. Porada said that it is rewarding to use their expertise in stem cells to aid NASA evaluate the potential health risks of space travel and hopefully create strategies to address them.

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