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Science – Gene therapy for Mars explorers

May 2018

Scientists are developing ways to help astronauts survive high levels of radiation in space, and even get them to Mars without the deadly exposure expected during three years of space travel. Talking to the Guardian newspaper, astronaut Commander Scott Kelly called radiation a ‘known hazard’.

And, while scientists are planning manned trips to the ‘red planet’ (Mars), they are also preparing a form of genetic fortification of human cells to help protect astronauts against the long-term effects of radiation.

It is estimated that a return trip from Mars would expose astronauts to radiation doses of 600 mSv — a large proportion of the lifetime cap NASA sets for space travellers, of 800-1200 mSv.

However, an international team of researchers and scientists, working with the artificial intelligence company Insilico Medicine, are working on a gene therapy. Part of the plan is to make some human cells radio resistant, tailored to each individual astronaut’s personal DNA.