Can I take a space flight? Considerations for doctorsBMJ 2012; 345 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.e8124 (Published 13 December 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;345:e8124
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While space tourism (1,2), cooking in space (2) and ferrying cows (for bio-fuel and food purposes) (2) to space are wonderful ideas, new research data demonstrates that galactic cosmic radiation can be cause for more concern than previously thought. Even though the danger of ionizing radiation for cancer causation is well known (1), data published very recently suggests that acute exposure to such radiation can lead to cognitive impairment and elevated Aβ plaque formation long after original exposure.
When a mouse model of Alzheimer’s was subjected to acute exposures (100 cGy - cumulative dose similar to that which astronauts might be exposed to in deep space) with 56Fe (one of the high-energy, highly charged particles found in space), these animals were found to develop cognitive impairment and elevated Aβ plaque formation long after initial radiation exposure compared to 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 galactic cosmic radiation of space is still unknown (1).
1. Grenon SM, Saary J, Gray G, Vanderploeg JM, Hughes-Fulford M. Can I take a space flight? Considerations for doctors. BMJ. 2012 Dec 13;345:e8124. doi: 10.1136/bmj.e8124.
2. Kurien BT, Dorri Y, D'Souza A, Scofield RH. Four men in a space station - To say nothing of the cow! The quest for finding respite and work in the ultimate frontier. Med Hypotheses. 2007;68:1195-9.
3. Cherry JD, Liu B, Frost JL, Lemere CA, Williams JP, et al. (2012) Galactic Cosmic Radiation Leads to Cognitive Impairment and Increased Aβ Plaque Accumulation in a Mouse Model of Alzheimer’s Disease. PLoS ONE 7(12): e53275. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0053275
Competing interests: No competing interests