A hypothesis on biological protection from space radiation through the use of new therapeutic gases as medical counter measures

Michael P. Schoenfeld, Rafat R. Ansari, Atsunori Nakao, David Wink

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


Radiation exposure to astronauts could be a significant obstacle for long duration manned space exploration because of current uncertainties regarding the extent of biological effects. Furthermore, concepts for protective shielding also pose a technically challenging issue due to the nature of cosmic radiation and current mass and power constraints with modern exploration technology. The concern regarding exposure to cosmic radiation is biological damage that is associated with increased oxidative stress. It is therefore important and would be enabling to mitigate and/or prevent oxidative stress prior to the development of clinical symptoms and disease. This paper hypothesizes a "systems biology" approach in which a combination of chemical and biological mitigation techniques are used conjunctively. It proposes using new, therapeutic, medical gases as chemical radioprotectors for radical scavenging and as biological signaling molecules for management of the body's response to exposure. From reviewing radiochemistry of water, biological effects of CO, H2, NO, and H2S gas, and mechanisms of radiation biology, it can be concluded that this approach may have therapeutic potential for radiation exposure. Furthermore, it also appears to have similar potential for curtailing the pathogenesis of other diseases in which oxidative stress has been implicated including cardiovascular disease, cancer, chronic inflammatory disease, hypertension, ischemia/reperfusion (IR) injury, acute respiratory distress syndrome, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease, cataracts, and aging. We envision applying these therapies through inhalation of gas mixtures or ingestion of water with dissolved gases.

Original languageEnglish
Article number8
JournalMedical Gas Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • countermeasure
  • oxidative stress
  • radiation shielding
  • radiochemistry
  • radiolysis
  • reactive oxygen species
  • space radiation
  • therapeutic medical gas

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience (miscellaneous)
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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