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      Mars ain’t the kind of place to raise your kid: ethical implications of pregnancy on missions to colonize other planets

      Life Sciences, Society and Policy
      Springer Berlin Heidelberg

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          The colonization of a new planet will inevitably bring about new bioethical issues. One is the possibility of pregnancy during the mission. During the journey to the target planet or moon, and for the first couple of years before a colony has been established and the colony has been accommodated for children, a pregnancy would jeopardize the safety of the crew and the wellbeing of the child. The principal concern with a pregnancy during an interplanetary mission is that it could put the entire crew in danger. Resources such as air, food, and medical supplies will be limited and calculated to keep the crew members alive. We explore the bioethical concerns of near-future space travel.

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          Measurements of energetic particle radiation in transit to Mars on the Mars Science Laboratory.

          The Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft, containing the Curiosity rover, was launched to Mars on 26 November 2011, and for most of the 253-day, 560-million-kilometer cruise to Mars, the Radiation Assessment Detector made detailed measurements of the energetic particle radiation environment inside the spacecraft. These data provide insights into the radiation hazards that would be associated with a human mission to Mars. We report measurements of the radiation dose, dose equivalent, and linear energy transfer spectra. The dose equivalent for even the shortest round-trip with current propulsion systems and comparable shielding is found to be 0.66 ± 0.12 sievert.
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            Radiation exposure and pregnancy: when should we be concerned?

            The potential biological effects of in utero radiation exposure of a developing fetus include prenatal death, intrauterine growth restriction, small head size, mental retardation, organ malformation, and childhood cancer. The risk of each effect depends on the gestational age at the time of exposure, fetal cellular repair mechanisms, and the absorbed radiation dose level. A comparison between the dose levels associated with each of these risks and the estimated fetal doses from typical radiologic examinations lends support to the conclusion that fetal risks are minimal and, therefore, that radiologic and nuclear medicine examinations that may provide significant diagnostic information should not be withheld from pregnant women. The latter position is advocated by the International Commission on Radiological Protection, National Council on Radiation Protection, American College of Radiology, and American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology. However, although the risks are small, it is important to ensure that radiation doses are kept as low as reasonably achievable. RSNA, 2007
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              Spaceflight and simulated microgravity cause a significant reduction of key gene expression in early T-cell activation.

              Healthy immune function depends on precise regulation of lymphocyte activation. During the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Apollo and Shuttle eras, multiple spaceflight studies showed depressed lymphocyte activity under microgravity (μg) conditions. Scientists on the ground use two models of simulated μg (sμg): 1) the rotating wall vessel (RWV) and 2) the random positioning machine (RPM), to study the effects of altered gravity on cell function before advancing research to the true μg when spaceflight opportunities become available on the International Space Station (ISS). The objective of this study is to compare the effects of true μg and sμg on the expression of key early T-cell activation genes in mouse splenocytes from spaceflight and ground animals. For the first time, we compared all three conditions of microgravity spaceflight, RPM, and RWV during immune gene activation of Il2, Il2rα, Ifnγ, and Tagap; moreover, we confirm two new early T-cell activation genes, Iigp1 and Slamf1. Gene expression for all samples was analyzed using quantitative real-time PCR (qRT-PCR). Our results demonstrate significantly increased gene expression in activated ground samples with suppression of mouse immune function in spaceflight, RPM, and RWV samples. These findings indicate that sμg models provide an excellent test bed for scientists to develop baseline studies and augment true μg in spaceflight experiments. Ultimately, sμg and spaceflight studies in lymphocytes may provide insight into novel regulatory pathways, benefiting both future astronauts and those here on earth suffering from immune disorders.

                Author and article information

                Life Sci Soc Policy
                Life Sci Soc Policy
                Life Sciences, Society and Policy
                Springer Berlin Heidelberg (Berlin/Heidelberg )
                25 August 2016
                25 August 2016
                December 2016
                : 12
                : 1
                : 10
                Biology Department, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT 84602 USA
                © The Author(s). 2016

                Open AccessThis article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.

                : 29 September 2015
                : 9 August 2016
                Funded by: Brigham Young University Biology Department
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                © The Author(s) 2016


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