Astronauts’ blood shows genetic mutations for cancer • The Register

Analyzes of blood drawn before and after spaceflight have confirmed that astronauts suffer from genetic mutations that could make them more susceptible to developing cancer and heart disease.

Cell functions can change due to changes in DNA caused by environmental factors. These genetic mutations, known as somatic mutations, can result from exposure to things like radiation or dangerous chemicals. Scientists can identify somatic mutations by examining changes in blood cells, and some of these mutations are signs of clonal hematopoiesis, a process by which the body begins making more and more cells that carry the same genetic mutation.

Clonal hematopoiesis is often associated with aging and smoking, and carries a higher risk of cardiovascular problems and blood cancer. A team of researchers led by the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, a private medical school in New York City, decided to study astronauts’ risk of developing clonal hematopoiesis.

David Goukassian, professor of medicine at the Cardiovascular Research Institute at Icahn Mount Sinai and lead author of the study released in Nature Communications Biology, explained in a expression on Wednesday: “Astronauts work in an extreme environment where many factors can lead to somatic mutations, most notably space radiation, which means there is a risk that these mutations could develop into clonal hematopoiesis.

“Given the growing interest in both commercial spaceflight and space exploration, and the potential health risks from exposure to various harmful factors associated with repeated or long-duration space exploration missions, such as B. a trip to Mars, we decided to retrospectively somatic mutation in the cohort of 14 astronauts.”

Goukassian and his team obtained blood samples from astronauts before they were sent into space and then for three days after they landed back on Earth between 1998 and 2001. They found that all 14 astronauts had at least one genetic mutation, five had two or more. DNA sequencing revealed a total of 34 mutations in 17 genes associated with clonal hematopoiesis.

The most common mutation was in TP53, a gene that produces a protein involved in suppressing tumor growth, and in DNMT3A, another gene linked to acute myeloid leukemia. The team believes the damage in the DNA could be due to space travel, although they don’t have enough evidence to confirm their suspicions.

“It’s too early to attribute any of these mutations to spaceflight, but we were surprised to find that the DNA damage repair gene TP53 was the most frequently mutated gene in this cohort of astronauts.” [where the median age was] 44 years, reflecting a potential difference from the civilian population, and based on current clinical evidence, somatic TP53 mutations are uncommon in patients with no history of cancer radiation,” Goukassian said The registry.

The team hopes NASA will screen astronauts for somatic mutations every three to five years to build a sample bank for scientists to examine. In the future, NASA could use the data to understand and figure out which astronauts might be more susceptible to genetic mutations and use it to calculate individual risk.

Protecting against DNA damage may not be possible if it is due to the harsh environment of space, Goukassian said. “Identifying individual susceptibility and monitoring possible clonal expansion, or perhaps regression, of clonal hematopoiesis will allow for early intervention to reduce or prevent the risk of disease development in astronauts,” he concluded. ® Astronauts’ blood shows genetic mutations for cancer • The Register

Laura Coffey

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