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Long-Term Effect of Space Radiation on Cardiomyocyte Turnover (NNX15AE06G)
Principal Investigator
Research Area:
Radiation health
Species Studied
Scientific Name: Mus musculus Species: Mouse

The risks to astronauts from exposure to space radiation have long been of great concern to NASA. These risks are now more important with the advent of long-duration space missions, which raise the risk of exposure to space radiation. While the effect of space radiation on the incidence of cancer and coronary artery disease has been studied, little is known about the effect of space radiation on the heart muscle, in particular on the ability of the heart muscle to replenish itself. The adult heart is incapable of regenerating itself after injury because the vast majority of heart muscle cells cannot divide. Nevertheless, the adult human heart slowly replenishes one to two percent of its muscle every year, and it is estimated that in a human heart close to 50 percent of the heart muscle is renewed during its lifespan. Therefore, preventing the formation of new heart muscle cells could result in a loss of up to 50 percent of heart muscle leading to heart failure.

Investigators recently discovered that after birth, the increase in oxygen in the atmosphere results in formation of harmful reactive oxygen species (ROS), which in turn damage the DNA of heart muscle cells (cardiomyocytes) and cause them to stop dividing. However, a small population of dividing heart muscle cells is protected from DNA damage by maintaining themselves in a low oxygen environment within the heart. If prolonged exposure to space radiation damages the DNA of these cells, then the heart will lose any ability to replenish itself. The long-term goal of this study was to develop countermeasures to reduce heart failure risk in astronauts due to space radiation exposure.

This study had the following specific aims:

  1. Characterize the effect of space radiation on oxidative DNA damage in cardiomyocytes.
  2. Determine the effect of space radiation on cardiomyocyte turnover in the adult heart.

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Nakada Y, Nhi Nguyen NU, Xiao F, Savla JJ, Lam NT, Abdisalaam S, Bhattacharya S, Mukherjee S, Asaithamby A, Gillette TG, Hill JA, and Sadek HA. DNA damage response mediates pressure overload-induced cardiomyocyte hypertrophy. Circulation. 2019. February 26; 139(9):1237-9. [DOI]

DNA damage
Radiation effects

Data Information
Data Availability
Archive is complete. Data sets are not publicly available but can be requested.
Data Sets+ Request data

DNA damage response
DNA double strand breaks
Radiation exposure

Mission/Study Information
Mission Launch/Start Date Landing/End Date Duration
Ground 05/01/2009 In Progress

Human Research Program (HRP) Human Research Roadmap (HRR) Information
Crew health and performance is critical to successful human exploration beyond low Earth orbit. The Human Research Program (HRP) investigates and mitigates the highest risks to human health and performance, providing essential countermeasures and technologies for human space exploration. Risks include physiological and performance effects from hazards such as radiation, altered gravity, and hostile environments, as well as unique challenges in medical support, human factors, and behavioral health support. The HRP utilizes an Integrated Research Plan (IRP) to identify the approach and research activities planned to address these risks, which are assigned to specific Elements within the program. The Human Research Roadmap is the web-based tool for communicating the IRP content.

The Human Research Roadmap is located at:

+ Click here for information of how this experiment is contributing to the HRP's path for risk reduction.

Additional Information
Managing NASA Center
Johnson Space Center (JSC)
Responsible NASA Representative
Johnson Space Center LSDA Office
Project Manager: Terry Hill
Institutional Support
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
Proposal Date
Proposal Source
2013-14 HERO NNJ13ZSA002N