Exploring the effects of ionizing radiation beyond Earth’s orbit & deep underground

Presenter(s): Dr Doug Boreham

To the Moon and Mars: Exploring the effects of ionizing radiation beyond Earth’s orbit and deep underground

In space, galactic cosmic radiation (GCR) is ionizing radiation which causes damage to biological life, e.g. astronauts. We are collaborating NASA scientists on several projects aimed at understanding the consequences of space radiation exposure and possible countermeasures to protect organisms from the damage.

BioSentinel is a NASA Ames astrobiology research project which aims to detect and measure the impact of deep space radiation on living organisms. The BioSentinel project is currently utilizing genetically modified mutants of the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae as a biosensor model to study the effects of deep space (40,000,000 km) on DNA damage and repair. In our lab, the BioSentinel yeast along with a human cancer model will be grown in a novel research laboratory (SNOLAB) 2km (6,800 ft) underground in a mine.

The rock burden above SNOLAB shields virtually all GCR.  Specialized shielding eliminates external terrestrial radiation coming from the rock walls in the mine, and an innovative growth chamber eliminates naturally occurring radioactive radon gas in SNOLAB.  Consequently, we can study how life processes deal with the absence of ionizing radiation or reintroduce controlled quantities to test for biological responses.  Occupational exposure to high doses of ionizing radiation and CGR can increase the risk various pathologies including cataracts, cancer, and cognitive decline.

We have developed a complex dietary supplement to be used as a protective countermeasure. The supplement has been shown to reduce cataract formation, reduce cancer risk, and dramatically improve cognition. The research is aimed to better understand the molecular mechanisms underlying how humans can adapt to ionizing radiation (and other stresses) and how dietary countermeasures could protect humans in workplaces on the earth, moon and Mars.

Posted on 19/06/2021

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