Medical countermeasures for extraterrestrial environments: Current status and future prospects with focus on acute injuries

Vijay K. Singh, Thomas Seed


In all space exploratory activities involving humans there are associated risks to health and well-being. Exposure to ionizing radiation represents one of the more serious health concerns. Although medical issues can arise shortly following the rare acute exposures, the more likely radiation-associated injuries will manifest in a delayed fashion following sub-acute exposures or protracted exposures to relatively low radiation doses. The radiological conditions that present these health risks during extraterrestrial space travel are presented in this article, along with current physical and medical countermeasures for such exposure contingencies. The aim of this article is to discuss radiation medical countermeasures that may be considered for future space exploration and travel. Biomedical advances have occurred toward the control and minimization of acute, sub-acute, and fractionated radiation exposure injuries, whether they stem from intentional application of radio-therapeutic procedures or unintentional, accidental terrestrial-based exposures. Those advances, based largely on novel bioengineering, genetic, and combinatorial pharmaceutical strategies, are briefly reviewed here, along with the promising prospects of additional, new and improved medical countering systems/agents that will be forthcoming with additional research and development efforts.

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