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Deep-space travel could create heart woes for astronauts
Date:4/7/2011

people have early atherosclerosis -- whether they travel in space or not they could not draw any conclusions from the small number of astronauts who have been outside the Earth's magnetic field. And, he added, even if they could, with so few people it would be impossible to perform a relevant epidemiological study

Instead, Kucik and his colleagues examined atherosclerosis development in mice following targeted exposure to a particle beam of high-velocity iron ions similar to those found in space produced by scientists at Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York. They analyzed the mice at 13 and 40 weeks afterward to assess the development of atherosclerosis in the aorta and carotid arteries. They concluded there was involvement of components in the arterial wall in the biological response to radiation injury.

"At 13 weeks it was surprising and quite remarkable that we already could see permanent damage an irreversible thickening of the artery wall where it had been exposed to radiation," said co-author Janusz Kabarowski, Ph.D., assistant professor in the UAB Department of Microbiology. "The irradiation had no significant effect on the frequency of circulating immune and inflammatory white blood cells or plasma lipid profile."

Knowing the effects of cosmic radiation on the heart health of deep-space astronauts will help meet the unique challenges of treatment and prevention posed by missions of long duration, Kabarowski said. "Our future research will look at the mechanisms causing the damage, and we will try to find a way to target those mechanisms to correct the damage or prevent it altogether."

Kucik said the team's findings also may inform cancer treatment. Newer proton radiation therapies can be targeted to stop and deposit all of their energy in a tumor, much like iron ions from space stop in the body. "No one knows the atherosclerotic risk of this therapy," Kucik said. "Anything we learn through these studies on deep
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Contact: Jennifer Lollar
jpark@uab.edu
205-934-3888
University of Alabama at Birmingham
Source:Eurekalert

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