Letters Tomorrow’s world

Cosmic radiation may cause dementia

BMJ 2013; 346 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.f225 (Published 15 January 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;346:f225
  1. Biji T Kurien, associate professor of research1
  1. 1University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, 1100 N Lindsay, Oklahoma City, OK 73104, USA
  1. biji-kurien{at}ouhsc.edu

Although space tourism,1 2 cooking in space,2 and ferrying cows (for biofuel and food purposes)2 to space are wonderful ideas, new research data show that galactic cosmic radiation might be more cause for concern than previously thought. Ionising radiation is known to cause cancer,1 but recently published data suggest that acute exposure to such radiation can lead to cognitive impairment and increased Aβ amyloid plaque formation long after original exposure.

Researchers subjected a mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease to acute exposure (100 cGy—cumulative dose similar to that which astronauts might be exposed to in deep space) with 56Fe (a high energy highly charged particle found in space). These animals developed cognitive impairment and increased Aβ amyloid plaque formation long after initial exposure compared with control mice exposed to sham radiation.3 Thus, there is an increased chance of incapacitating dementia occurring long after a space mission. However, the manner in which the central nervous system responds to the chronic and complex low dose cosmic radiation of space is still unknown.1


Cite this as: BMJ 2013;346:f225


  • Competing interests: None declared.