Astronauts on multi-year interplanetary missions will be exposed to a low, chronic dose of high-energy, high-charge particles. Studies in rodents show acute, nonfractionated exposure to these particles causes brain changes such as fewer adult-generated hippocampal neurons and stem cells that may be detrimental to cognition and mood regulation and thus compromise mission success. However, the influence of a low, chronic dose of these particles on neurogenesis and stem cells is unknown. To examine the influence of galactic cosmic radiation on neurogenesis, adult-generated stem and progenitor cells in Nestin-CreERT2/R26R-YFP transgenic mice were inducibly labeled to allow fate tracking. Mice were then sham exposed or given one acute 100 cGy 56Fe-particle exposure or five fractionated 20 cGy 56Fe-particle exposures. Adult-generated hippocampal neurons and stem cells were quantified 24 h or 3 months later. Both acute and fractionated exposure decreased the amount of proliferating cells and immature neurons relative to sham exposure. Unexpectedly, neither acute nor fractionated exposure decreased the number of adult neural stem cells relative to sham expsoure. Our findings show that single and fractionated exposures of 56Fe-particle irradiation are similarly detrimental to adult-generated neurons. Implications for future missions and ground-based studies in space radiation are discussed.
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Vol. 180 • No. 6