October 11, 2006
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Contact: Jerry Carey
Phone: (856) 566-6171
UMDNJ Research Team Receives $1.25 Million Grant from NASA
NEWARK—In the future, when astronauts finally step on the planet Mars, their safety may be partly due to radiation research conducted at the UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School. A research team led by Dr. Edouard I. Azzam, an associate professor of Radiology at the medical school, has been awarded a four-year, $1.25 million grant from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to help the agency understand and find ways to protect future space travelers from harmful radiation.
"Astronauts are exposed to greater than normal doses of ionizing radiation as well as types of radiation that are not common on the surface of our planet," Dr. Azzam explained. "On the space shuttle and international space station, the atmosphere and its magnetic fields provide astronauts some shielding against radiation; however, this protection will be lost in deeper interplanetary space and at the Martian surface."
During a Mars mission, every cell nucleus in an astronaut's body will, on average, be hit by radiation particles every few days. This radiation could cause cellular and tissue injury, including genetic damage that could extend to nearby cells. According to NASA, the health risks of radiation during space travel may include cancer, damage to the central nervous system, and radiation sickness.
For the project, Dr. Azzam will be joined by a team of researchers at UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School that includes Dr. Andrew Harris and Dr. Debkumar Pain, of the Department of Pharmacology and Physiology, and Dr. Roger Howell and Dr. Sonia de Toledo, of the Department of Radiology. The research team will be investigating how human cells respond to exposures of low to moderate levels of radiation of the type encountered in space. Specifically, they will investigate how biological processes essential for normal development, physiology and response to disease, are affected by radiation exposure. Their experiments will be carried out at the New Jersey Medical School and at NASA's Space Radiation Laboratory at Brookhaven National Laboratory, on Long Island.
Reporters interested in interviewing the researchers, or learning more about the grant can contact Jerry Carey at (856) 566-6171.
UMDNJ is the nation's largest free-standing public health sciences university with more than 5,500 students attending the state's three medical schools, its only dental school, a graduate school of biomedical sciences, a school of health related professions, a school of nursing and its only school of public health, on five campuses. Last year, there were more than two million patient visits to UMDNJ facilities and faculty at campuses in Newark, New Brunswick/Piscataway, Scotch Plains, Camden and Stratford. UMDNJ operates University Hospital, a Level I Trauma Center in Newark, and University Behavioral HealthCare, a mental health and addiction services network.