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Brain stem cells sensitive to space radiation
Date:12/11/2007

Cold Spring Harbor, NY Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) scientists recently led a team of researchers to study potential effects of space radiation on astronauts. The results of their study are revealing and will provide the foundation for ensuring the safety of crew members participating in long distance space travel. Measures to protect astronauts from health risks caused by space radiation will be important during extended missions to the moon or Mars, say researchers in a paper currently online in Experimental Neurology.

Using a mouse model designed to reveal even slight changes in brain cell populations, scientists found radiation appeared to target a type of stem cell in an area of the brain believed to be important for learning and mood control.

The findings from a team of researchers from The Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Brookhaven National Laboratory, NASAs Kennedy Space Center and the McKnight Brain Institute of the University of Florida (UF) suggest that identifying medications or physical shielding to protect astronauts from cosmic and solar radiation will be important for the success of human space missions beyond low Earth orbit.

Our discovery does not present any adverse issues for the astronaut program because the ground-based dose and application of radiation we used were not comparable to that seen for existing space travel, said Dennis A. Steindler, Ph.D., executive director of UFs McKnight Brain Institute and co-investigator in the study. But the exceptional sensitivity of these neural stem cells suggests that we are going to have to rethink our understanding of stem cell susceptibility to radiation, including cosmic radiation encountered during space travel, as well as radiation doses that accompany different medical procedures.

Stem cells are important because they have the remarkable ability to renew themselves and produce many different cell types.

In this study, Cold Spring Harbor La
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Contact: Jim Bono
bono@cshl.edu
516-367-8455
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
Source:Eurekalert

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