Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Space-related radiation research could help reduce fractures in cancer survivors

16.09.2009
A research project looking for ways to reduce bone loss in astronauts may yield methods of improving the bone health of cancer patients undergoing radiation treatment.

It is well documented that living in the microgravity environment of space causes bone loss in astronauts, but until recently, little was known about the effects of space radiation on bones. Dr. Ted Bateman leads a project funded by the National Space Biomedical Research Institute (NSBRI) to understand radiation-induced bone loss and to determine which treatments can be used to reduce that loss and lower the risk of fractures.

“Our studies indicate significant bone loss at the radiation levels astronauts will experience during long missions to the moon or Mars,” said Bateman, a member of NSBRI’s Musculoskeletal Alterations Team.

Bateman, an associate professor of bioengineering at Clemson University, and colleagues at Clemson and Loma Linda University have discovered in experiments with mice that bone loss begins within days of radiation exposure through activation of bone-reducing cells called osteoclasts. Under normal conditions, these cells work with bone-building cells, called osteoblasts, to maintain bone health.

“Our research challenges some conventional thought by saying radiation turns on the bone-eating osteoclasts,” Bateman said. “If that is indeed the case, existing treatments, such as bisphosphonates, may be able to prevent this early loss of bone.”

Bisphosphonates are used to prevent loss of bone mass in patients who have osteoporosis or other bone disorders.

Even though the research is being performed to protect the health of NASA astronauts, cancer patients, especially those who receive radiation therapy in the pelvic region, could benefit from the research.

“We know that older women receiving radiotherapy to treat pelvic tumors are particularly vulnerable to fracture, with hip fracture rates increasing 65 percent to 200 percent in these cancer patients,” said Bateman. “Hip fractures are very serious; nearly one in four patients who fracture a hip will not survive a year. A large number of surviving patients will require long-term care. More than 80 percent of the patients will not be able to walk unaided or will not be back to pre-fracture activity levels after a year.”

Once a person loses bone, their long-term fracture risk depends on their ability to recover lost bone mass. For older cancer patients, early introduction of bisphosphonates and other forms of treatment could help greatly since the process of regaining bone mass can be more difficult due to lower activity levels.

Clemson’s Dr. Jeff Willey is a collaborator with Bateman and the lead investigator of an NSBRI-funded project looking at the cellular mechanisms involved in radiation-induced bone loss. He said the bone loss in the spaceflight-related experiments has occurred quickly and cell physiology has changed.

“If we expose mice to a relatively low dose of radiation, the cells that break down bone are turned on several days after exposure,” he said. “After radiation exposure, osteoclasts appear to have a different shape. They get flatter, and there are certainly more of them.”

The mice used in the research have received the amount of radiation exposure that is expected to occur during a lengthy mission to the moon or Mars. The amount is much less than what cancer patients receive during treatment. For example, patients receiving radiation treatment in the pelvic region can receive doses up to 80 gray over a six- to eight-week period, with the hip receiving up to 25 gray. Astronauts are likely to receive about 0.5 to 1 gray during a long-duration lunar or martian mission.

Astronauts are at risk of radiation exposure from two sources. The first is proton radiation from the sun. The second, and less understood type, is galactic cosmic radiation from sources outside the galaxy. Galactic cosmic rays and protons would be the source of radiation damage for astronauts during a mission to Mars.

Marcelo Vazquez, NSBRI’s senior scientist for space radiation research, said Bateman’s project and other NSBRI radiation projects will influence spacecraft design and mission planning. “The research will help to define the radiation risks for astronauts during long-term missions,” Vazquez said. “This will lead to strategies for shielding and medical countermeasures to protect against exposure.”

Bateman’s NSBRI work is leading to other studies. “We have been able to initiate a couple of clinical trials with cancer patients to determine if what we are seeing in mice corresponds with bone loss in humans. Preliminary results in these trials show rapid declines in bone mass and strength,” Bateman said.

NSBRI, funded by NASA, is a consortium of institutions studying the health risks related to long-duration spaceflight. The Institute’s science, technology and education projects take place at more than 60 institutions across the United States.

Brad Thomas
NSBRI
713-798-7595
rbthomas@bcm.edu

Brad Thomas | NSBRI
Further information:
http://www.nsbri.org/NewsPublicOut/Release.epl?r=125
http://www.bcm.edu

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht Monitoring the heart's mitochondria to predict cardiac arrest?
21.09.2017 | Boston Children's Hospital

nachricht Highly precise wiring in the Cerebral Cortex
21.09.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Hirnforschung

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Highly precise wiring in the Cerebral Cortex

Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.

The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...

Im Focus: Tiny lasers from a gallery of whispers

New technique promises tunable laser devices

Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...

Im Focus: Ultrafast snapshots of relaxing electrons in solids

Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!

When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...

Im Focus: Quantum Sensors Decipher Magnetic Ordering in a New Semiconducting Material

For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.

Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...

Im Focus: Fast, convenient & standardized: New lab innovation for automated tissue engineering & drug

MBM ScienceBridge GmbH successfully negotiated a license agreement between University Medical Center Göttingen (UMG) and the biotech company Tissue Systems Holding GmbH about commercial use of a multi-well tissue plate for automated and reliable tissue engineering & drug testing.

MBM ScienceBridge GmbH successfully negotiated a license agreement between University Medical Center Göttingen (UMG) and the biotech company Tissue Systems...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

“Lasers in Composites Symposium” in Aachen – from Science to Application

19.09.2017 | Event News

I-ESA 2018 – Call for Papers

12.09.2017 | Event News

EMBO at Basel Life, a new conference on current and emerging life science research

06.09.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Comet or asteroid? Hubble discovers that a unique object is a binary

21.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Cnidarians remotely control bacteria

21.09.2017 | Life Sciences

Monitoring the heart's mitochondria to predict cardiac arrest?

21.09.2017 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>