(ORDO NEWS) — Researchers at the Northwestern Institute (Chicago) have found genetic variants associated with the sensitivity of cells to radiation exposure. They propose to activate these genes in astronauts, but only temporarily.
Scientists came to their discovery by studying 27 different types of cancer. Using a mathematical algorithm, they found 92 genes with 400 unique mutations that could possibly influence radiation sensitivity.
Experiments then tested the effect of radiation exposure on human cells with these mutations, as well as tumors grown in mice.
Often malignant tumors are treated with courses of radiation therapy.
An unfortunate feature of this method is that it is still used according to general schemes and doses, while modern methods are moving towards individually tailored strategies and drugs.
In order to change this, scientists need a set of genetic data from each individual patient.
The lack of inclusion of genetic data in radiotherapy is a significant unmet clinical need.
This information will ultimately allow us to better calibrate radiation dose to patients in the clinic,” says Dr. Mohamed Abazed, assistant professor of radiation oncology at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine and a radiation oncologist at Northwestern Medicine.
The discovered set of genes opens up very interesting prospects. Their activation will increase the body’s resistance to radiation.
This way, doctors can give higher doses to more resistant tumors without damaging healthy tissue.
However, can this information be applied to protect a person from environmental radiation? Scientists say yes.
This applies not only to people on Earth (who, for example, may be affected by a nuclear accident or war), but also in space. Astronauts and future space travelers may be significantly affected by cosmic radiation.
Abazed and his team are investigating how to modify gene activity to provide greater resistance to radiation when a person is exposed to environmental radiation, and reverse these interventions later to prevent unpredictable effects on a person’s health, including the development of cancer.
Potentially, there are ways to give a person a drug for a short period of time to activate a gene that confers resistance to radiation, and then stop the drug and return the activity of the gene to baseline said the scientist.
The study is still in its early stages and it is still very early to talk about the full application of the discovery.
However, if it is possible to create a gene therapy that will give resistance to radiation, future Martian colonists will have one less problem.
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