A new study shows that astronauts can experience severe gastrointestinal damage during space travel. The results are based on animal model simulations that investigate the effects of galactic cosmic radiation exposure on GI tissue. The damage can lead to long-term problems, including an increased risk of tumor growth, the latest in a growing number of research findings indicating important space-related health issues.
The research comes from Georgetown University, where researchers found that traveling to space – which astronauts would experience traveling to Mars and to other distant planets – could have a major long-term impact on their health.
Lab mice exposed to radiation exposed to space by astronauts found damaged intestinal cells that were unable to adequately absorb nutrients. The exposed mice also developed cancer in the form of intestinal polyps and could suffer DNA damage.
The DNA damage resulted in a larger number of aging cells that do not undergo normal cell division. According to the researchers, these cells produce inflammatory molecules and oxidative stress, both of which increase the damage. It becomes more difficult for new intestinal cells to migrate and replace old cells, which increases the risk of cancer.
The researchers found that the effects are likely to be permanent, and it is possible that similar effects will be experienced by other organs in the body. This includes previous research showing increased aging and brain problems due to space travel.
Source: Georgetown University