The human quest for exploring outer space never ends. The question “Will the Man Go Back to the Moon?” leads to an important issue i.e. ensuring the health and safety of astronauts going on lunar missions. Moon dust/Lunar dust is one of major challenge faced by astronauts hindering future space missions1.
The main risk factor involved with lunar dust is the particles that are easily inhaled by humans. It contains a large number of respirable particles and about 10% of the dust particles are inhalable. Once inhaled, the insoluble particles are removed by human lymphatic system but the soluble particles remain in the Lungs interstitial cells2.
Despite of all protective measures adopted by lunar astronauts, the moon dust particles are easily brought back to Earth in their living and working places. This super fine dust has major effects on respiratory and cardiovascular systems and there is elevated risk of airway inflammation transforming into cancer3.
Several studies have reported that lunar dust can cause animal lung fibrosis and other symptoms of pneumonia. With the extension of exposure time in the lunar dust, acute inflammation of the mice lung may turn into chronic inflammation4.
Previously Yan Sun, a Chinese scientist and team conducted a research on rat’s pulmonary acute injury induced by lunar soil stimulant. In which they measured the biochemical indicators, cell classifications and cell counts in Bronchoalveolar Lavage Fluid (BALF) of the rat’s lunar soil simulant (LSS) exposed and the pathological changes were observed. The results showed that lunar soil simulant can induce lung injury and inflammatory lesions. The changes of the biomarkers in the BALF were consistent with the results of the histo-pathological observations5.
Recently Yan Sun has extended the research by further discussing the lunar dust toxicity mechanism from two aspects, immune injury and oxidative stress6.
Researchers conducted experiment on Wister rats and divided them into 4 groups. They infected them with different simulents. The levels of tumor necrosis factors in the bronchoalveolar lavage fluid were examined and the changes of different compounds in the lung tissue were later measured.
The cytokines, immunoglobulin and the oxidative stress index in lung tissue showed that the significant immunity. The oxidative stress response in the respiratory system was caused by lunar soil stimulant. The determination of and the immune and oxidative stress response promoted each other, resulting in toxic effect on pulmonary parenchyma cells and membrane of rats.
The overall results showed that the immune response and oxidative stress reaction induced by lunar soil simulant were significant in the respiratory system. They promote each other, so as to cause the toxic effects on the lung parenchyma cells and membrane tissues of rats.
Written by: Rabeeia
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21 August, 2019