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

boratory scientists developed mice that were genetically engineered with easily identifiable, florescent stem cells. The stem cells lose their florescence when they transform into neurons, which makes it easier to account for them. Scientists from the NASA Space Radiation Laboratory located at the Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton, NY, then administered a single dose of radiation to the mice about equal to the amount astronauts would receive after a three-year space voyage to Mars.

A CSHL team of scientists led by neurobiologist Grigori Enikolopov, Ph.D., then examined the mice and unexpectedly found that a special type of stem cell is selectively killed in the hippocampus. The cell is described as quiescent or quiet because even though it is the wellspring that repopulates the brain with new cells, it exists in relative repose while its daughter cells divide and reproduce in great numbers.

Our findings are surprising because it is assumed that dividing cells are the most vulnerable to radiation that is why radiation is used in cancer therapy, said Enikolopov, who served as co-investigator and corresponding author for the project. These stem cells divide quite rarely and it was unexpected that they would be the most vulnerable to this type of radiation. But at least two thirds of these quiescent cells died. The challenge now is to find something to protect those cells.

Whether certain brain cells are at risk more than others is vital information for scientists planning lengthy lunar expeditions or deep space missions. The Presidents Commission on Implementation of United States Space Exploration Policy outlined plans to send a human expedition to the moon by 2020. NASA led the mission to land the first unmanned spacecraft on Mars in 1975. More recently, NASAs unmanned Phoenix Mars Lander was launched on Aug. 4 and is expected to land on the red planet on May 25, 2008.

Space radiation has not been a serious problem for NA
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Contact: Jim Bono
bono@cshl.edu
516-367-8455
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
Source:Eurekalert

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