Effects of Solar Particle Event-Like Proton Radiation and/or Simulated Microgravity on Circulating Mouse Blood Cells

Ana L. Romero-Weaver, Liyong Lin, Alejandro Carabe-Fernandez, Ann R Kennedy

Abstract


Astronauts traveling in space missions outside of low earth orbit will be exposed for longer times to a microgravity environment. In addition, the increased travel time involved in exploration class missions will result in the risk of exposure to significant doses of solar particle event (SPE) radiation. Both conditions could significantly affect the number of circulating blood cells. Therefore, it is critical to determine the combined effects of exposure to both microgravity and SPE radiation. The purpose of the present study was to assess these risks by evaluating the effects of SPE-like proton radiation and/or microgravity, as simulated with the hindlimb unloading (HU) system, on circulating blood cells using mouse as a model system. The results indicate that exposure to HU alone caused minimal or no significant changes in mouse circulating blood cell numbers. The exposure of mice to SPE-like proton radiation with or without HU treatment caused a significant decrease in the number of circulating lymphocytes, granulocytes and platelets. The reduced numbers of circulating lymphocytes, granulocytes and platelets resulting from the SPE-like proton radiation exposure with or without HU treatment in mice suggest that astronauts participating in exploration class missions are at risk of developing infections and thrombotic diseases; thus, countermeasures are likely to be necessary for these biological endpoints.

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