Space travel could be bad for astronauts’ arteries from uabnews on Vimeo.

As glorious as it would be to embrace the heavens above and set foot upon extra terrestrial soils, we need to face the reality that space is not for the faint of heart–this time quite literally.

A study by the University of Alabama at Birmingham (or UAB for short) has presented another danger regarding space radiation which may cause a few people to scratch themselves off the list.

Using an animal model, researchers assessed the affect of iron ion radiation commonly found in outer space to see if exposures promoted the development of atherosclerosis, as terrestrial sources of radiation are known to do. They observed that cosmic radiation accelerated the development of atherosclerosis, independent of the cholesterol levels or circulating white blood cells of the mice. It also worsened existing atherosclerotic lesions. [...]

[...] 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. [...]

“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.” (UAB News)

Although this isn’t a show stopper for future space travelers, it does mean that until we can develop artificial magnetic fields strong enough to repel cosmic radiation if we want to see our species survive off world (at least upon the surface).

Since space colonists will inevitably be exposed to cosmic radiation at some point in their lives (especially if they are traversing between the planets), it might also be a good idea to clone a few extra hearts (or harvest them from pigs) just in case the originals become damaged beyond repair.

Celestial Tip: Astrobiology Magazine

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