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Study: Lunar soil kills mammalian cells and affects DNA

This is a serious problem for future colonies on the Moon.

The print of Neil Armstrong on the Moon during the mission "Apollo 11". NASA photo
The print of Neil Armstrong on the Moon during the mission “Apollo 11”. NASA photo

Long-term stay on the surface of the moon can be dangerous for people’s lives because of the lunar soil. Scientists from the Medical University of Stony Brook found that particles of regolith can cause mutations in mammalian cells and lead to serious diseases. The study was published in the scientific journal GeoHealth, it was conducted with the support of NASA.

After the Apollo missions, scientists learned that the lunar soil is a threat to humans. Astronauts complained of tear and cough, and also often sneezed because of small particles of regolith, which stuck to the spacesuits from the surface of the moon. Due to the fact that the lunar soil is electrified, it sticks to almost all extraneous surfaces, including the landing modules.

For a new study of the effect of the soil on living things, scientists did not send anyone to the moon. Instead, they used mouse and human cells and mixed them with artificially created lunar dust.

In both cases, the cells either died or their DNA changed. One of the authors of the study and Professor of the University of Stony Brook Bruce Demple (Bruce Demple) told Gizmodo that very small particles of the lunar soil could “directly” affect the cells.

Scientists made an unexpected discovery: lunar dust has the ability to reactivate free radicals. These molecules destroy cells in the body of a person begins an oxidative process, causing various diseases. However, scientists do not know exactly how lunar dust has a harmful effect on cells.

Unlike earth dust, particles from the Moon are not exposed to weather or atmosphere. On Earth’s satellite dust is dry and charged with electrostatic voltage. And because of the fact that over the billions of years the moon has been bombarded by meteorites and micrometeorites, it has split into very small particles.

As noted in Gizmodo, the study was limited: scientists used the non-real moon ground, and living cells were outside the body, so it’s hard to judge how dust can affect a real living thing. However, this work confirms the past guesses of scientists and now they will have to take this into account when developing a program for long-term colonization of the Moon.

Scientists plan to continue the study if they receive real samples of lunar soil from NASA.

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