Tucker, J. D., Marples, B., Ramsey, M. J. and Lutze-Mann, L. H. Persistence of Chromosome Aberrations in Mice Acutely Exposed to 56Fe+26 Ions. Radiat. Res. 161, 648–655 (2004).

Space exploration has the potential to yield exciting and significant discoveries, but it also brings with it many risks for flight crews. Among the less well studied of these are health effects from space radiation, which includes the highly charged, energetic particles of elements with high atomic numbers that constitute the galactic cosmic rays. In this study, we demonstrated that 1 Gy iron ions acutely administered to mice in vivo resulted in highly complex chromosome damage. We found that all types of aberrations, including dicentrics as well as translocations, insertions and acentric fragments, disappear rapidly with time after exposure, probably as a result of the death of heavily damaged cells, i.e. cells with multiple and/or complex aberrations. In addition, numerous cells have apparently simple exchanges as their only aberrations, and these cells appear to survive longer than heavily damaged cells. Eight weeks after exposure, the frequency of cells showing cytogenetic damage was reduced to less than 20% of the levels evident at 1 week, with little further decline apparent over an additional 8 weeks. These results indicate that exposure to 1 Gy iron ions produces heavily damaged cells, a small fraction of which appear to be capable of surviving for relatively long periods. The health effects of exposure to high-LET radiation in humans on prolonged space flights should remain a matter of concern.

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