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A recent study suggests that astronauts traveling in deep space may be at a higher risk for experiencing erectile dysfunction.

According to researchers, male astronauts may experience erectile dysfunction upon returning from deep space, in addition to homesickness, muscle atrophy, bone loss, increased risk of cancer, the constant presence of high achievers, and the possibility of death in the vastness of outer space.

According to a study funded by NASA, researchers have determined that exposure to galactic radiation and weightlessness can have a negative impact on male sexual health. The study is the first of its kind to examine this relationship and has found that both galactic cosmic rays and microgravity can affect erectile tissue function, potentially causing long-term effects.

In a report released on Wednesday, American researchers expressed their worries about a potential health hazard for deep space exploration. They urged for thorough monitoring of astronauts’ sexual health upon their return from future deep space missions, and suggested the use of specific antioxidants to counter any negative effects by preventing harmful biological processes.

Dr. Justin La Favor, a senior author of the study and an expert in neurovascular dysfunction at Florida State University, stated that although galactic cosmic radiation had long-term negative effects, there were noticeable improvements in tissue function by specifically targeting the redox and nitric oxide pathways. This suggests that erectile dysfunction may be able to be treated.

The caution is being raised as there is a renewed emphasis on deep space expeditions, as Nasa and other leading space organizations gear up for extended journeys to the moon and more ambitious trips to Mars. Nasa’s Artemis project aims to send astronauts to the moon as soon as next year, with plans for manned missions to Mars potentially scheduled for 2040.

Throughout the history of space exploration, researchers have studied the effects of weightlessness and cosmic radiation on the human body. These phenomena, which include high-energy particles, X-rays, and gamma rays emitted by stars and other celestial objects, have prompted the implementation of preventative measures. For instance, astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) follow specific exercise routines to combat the deterioration of bones and muscles.

However, La Favor and his team at Wake Forest University School of Medicine in North Carolina claim that the impact of space travel on erectile dysfunction has not been thoroughly studied. In the Faseb journal, they state, “Although erectile dysfunction is a prevalent issue for men over the age of 40 and can greatly affect quality of life, the potential effects of spaceflight on erectile function remain unclear.”

The Earth is well shielded from cosmic radiation thanks to its magnetic field and dense atmosphere. However, on the moon, Mars, and in the space between, there is no adequate barrier. During their time on the ISS, crew members are shielded by barriers and the Earth’s magnetic field, but they still receive a week’s worth of radiation in just one week, which is equivalent to a year’s worth of radiation exposure for someone on the ground.

Due to a lack of readily available human subjects, the scientists used rats to investigate the effects of space travel on male bodily functions. Multiple experiments were conducted, involving dozens of rats being suspended at a 30-degree angle and exposed to simulated galactic cosmic rays at the Space Radiation Laboratory in New York, run by Nasa.

After one year, examining the rat tissues showed that even small exposure to galactic cosmic rays led to higher levels of oxidative stress in the animals. This caused damage to the artery that delivers blood to the penis and erectile tissue. While weightlessness also had an effect, it was not as significant.

The authors state that the findings indicate potential damage to the erectile tissues’ neurovascular function for the astronauts’ sexual health after returning from extended deep space missions.

Future space travelers may have some positive news to look forward to. The use of certain antioxidants showed signs of enhancing tissue function following exposure to galactic cosmic rays. This suggests that male astronauts on their way to Mars do not have to be too discouraged.

Source: theguardian.com