Ionizing radiation-induced bioeffects in space and strategies to reduce cellular injury and carcinogenesis

Aviat Space Environ Med. 2007 Apr;78(4 Suppl):A67-78.


Background: The bioeffects of space radiation on organisms outside of the environment of Earth's magnetosphere are a concern for long-duration exploration spaceflights. Potential mutagenic effects from space radiation exposure result from direct DNA damage or indirectly from the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS).

Hypotheses: 1) Transepithelial electrical resistance (TER) measurements in cell culture monolayers may be used as a model system for detecting cell damage produced by exposure to simulated space radiation and for testing potential chemoprotective agents; 2) biomarkers of exposure that quantitate indirect radiation effects may allow prediction of cellular DNA damage; and 3) a multiple agent, chemoprevention cocktail may reduce the bioeffects of simulated space radiation.

Methods: Normal human and canine lung, breast, and renal epithelial cells were assayed in vitro and exposed to escalating doses of gamma or heavy-ion carbon (290 MeV/u), ceon (400 MeV/u), or iron (600 MeV/u) irradiation. Post-exposure measurements of TER, lipid peroxidation (LP) via measurement of 4-hydroxy-nonenal (4-HNE), and malonaldehyde (MDA) and assessment of chromosome damage via fluorescence in situ hybridization with tandem labeling of chromosome 1 were performed.

Results: Cells exposed to intermediate or high doses of radiation (5, 10, and 25 Gy) showed characteristic diminution in TER, thought to be secondary to dysfunction of tight junctions, and associated with membrane LP and other mechanisms. The cells also showed increases in 4-HNE + MDA measurements and increased frequency of chromosomal aberrations. Preliminary studies of cells incubated with media containing a combination of chemoprotective agents at the time of radiation exposure showed a 15-50% reduction in the radiation-induced changes in membrane resistance, levels of LP, and chromosomal aberrations relative to their unprotected cellular counterparts.

Conclusion: TER measurement, in conjunction with measures of LP, may provide a useful model for determination of physiological changes caused by radiation exposure and the efficacy of chemoprotective agents. A multi-agent mixture of chemoprotective agents may be more effective than previously evaluated single agents alone.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Astronauts*
  • Biomarkers
  • Cell Death / radiation effects
  • Chemoprevention
  • Chromosome Aberrations / radiation effects
  • Dogs
  • Epithelial Cells / radiation effects*
  • Extraterrestrial Environment*
  • Humans
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Lipid Peroxidation / physiology
  • Lipid Peroxidation / radiation effects
  • Oxidative Stress / physiology
  • Oxidative Stress / radiation effects
  • Radiation, Ionizing*
  • Radiation-Protective Agents
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / radiation effects
  • Space Flight*
  • Space Simulation
  • Weightlessness*


  • Biomarkers
  • Radiation-Protective Agents
  • Reactive Oxygen Species