Researchers Sound Alarm On Leukemia Risk Among Mars Explorers

This weakens their immune system, leaving them more prone to radiation-induced cancer, researchers from the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine said.

By having a three year and 140 million mile journey, a new research has recently found that for those who wanted to travel through space and reach the red planet will be facing a heightened risk of developing leukemia since they will be exposed to risky levels of radiation.

NASA's Human Research Program, which involves this recent study, catalogues the effects of human spaceflight on the body, especially as it has not evolved to deal with conditions such as weightlessness.

A report from Press Trust of India mentioned that researchers are using human stem cells to measure the effect of deep radiations. Researchers found that the human cells were more likely to develop cancer when exposed to the radiation.

A round-trip mission to Mars would take three years, and extended exposure would increase the likelihood of leukemia. That along with radiation raise the risk of immune-dysfunction and cancer.

The team did this by taking HSCs from healthy donors aged between 30 and 55 (to represent typical astronauts) and exposed them to simulated solar energetic particles and GCRs at the same levels one is expected to experience during a Mars mission.

While such stem cells form less than 0.1 percent of adults' bone marrow, they produce the different kinds of blood cells circulating the human body and working to move oxygen, fight infection, and get rid of malignant cells. But, with the new study it is undeniable that the choice will be very high on risk. They found that exposure to these types of radiation over long periods of time causes mutations in certain genes, and these mice ended up developing T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

In the current study, the researchers are also testing a common dietary supplement that could protect the astronauts from the damaging effects of radiation, according to Medical Xpress. First, the genetic damage to HSCs leads to leukemia. Porada said that it is rewarding to use their expertise in stem cells to aid NASA evaluate the potential health risks of space travel and hopefully create strategies to address them.

Exposure to rays affected the ability to create key infection-fighting cells that actively target infections and tumours.

Porada believes these latest findings offer serious concerns for future astronauts as previous research into the body's reaction to weightlessness and microgravity also showed significant changes in an astronaut's immune function during even the shortest mission.

"Radiation exposure at these levels was highly deleterious to HSC function, reducing their ability to produce nearly all types of blood cells, often by 60-80pc", said senior researcher on the project, Prof Christopher Porada.

  • Tracy Ferguson