Space flight causes erectile dysfunction – in rats

Space flight might increase the risk of long-term erectile dysfunction, according to new study done on rats.

Galactic cosmic radiation and microgravity are bad for human bodies in a range of ways. They cause oxidative stress and endothelial dysfunction in the body, both of which are linked to erectile dysfunction.

A study published in a biomedical science journal  has found that male rats exposed to simulated spaceflight were at higher risk of erectile dysfunction than those who weren’t, even after more than a year of recovery.

The researchers tested 86 rats in 6 different groups, each exposed to varying (or no) levels of galactic cosmic radiation at NASA’s Space Radiation Laboratory, and simulated microgravity with hindlimb unloading.

They found that after 12 or 13 months of recovery, rats still had vascular changes linked to erectile dysfunction. Some treatments with antioxidants could counter this.

“With manned missions to outer space planned for the coming years, this work indicates that sexual health should be closely monitored in astronauts upon their return to Earth,” says corresponding author Dr Justin La Favor, a researcher at Florida State University, US.

“While the negative impacts of galactic cosmic radiation were long-lasting, functional improvements induced by acutely targeting the redox and nitric oxide pathways in the tissues suggest that the erectile dysfunction may be treatable.”

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