A Mechanistic Model of Environmental Oxygen Influence on the Deterministic Effects to Human Skin from Space Radiations
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During human spaceflight missions, controlled variation of atmospheric pressure and oxygen concentration from a sea-level based normal to hyperoxic levels may occur as part of operational procedure. This activity is of interest because it provides the relevant radiation exposure and dynamic oxygen concentration parameters that may lead to varying radiation sensitivity in the skin and other organs. Tumor hypoxia has been indicated as a primary factor in the decrease in efficacy of radiation therapy. These oxygen concentration effects have been largely demonstrated with low-LET radiations and to a lesser degree with high-LET primary radiations such as protons and heavy ions common in space exposure. In order to analyze the variation of oxygen concentration in human skin from spaceflight activities, a mathematical model of oxygen transport through the human cardiorespiratory system with pulmonary and cutaneous intake was implemented. Oxygen concentration was simulated at the various skin layers, from dermis to epidermis. Skin surface radiation doses and spectra from relatively high flux Solar Particle Events (SPEs) were calculated by the PHITS radiation transport code over a range of spacecraft and spacesuit thicknesses in terms of aluminum equivalence. A series of anatomical skin and shielding thicknesses were chosen to encompass the scope of radiation exposure levels as indicated by existing NASA skin phantom studies. To model the influence of oxygen with radiation exposure, microdosimetric oxygen fixation simulations were implemented using the Monte-Carlo-Damage-Simulation (MCDS) code. From these outputs, occurrence of DNA double strand breaks (DSBs) and relative biological effect (RBE) from radiation exposure with oxygen concentration dependence was established and correlated to spaceflight activities. It was determined that minimal but observable oxygen concentration transients occur in skin during environmental oxygen changes in spaceflight. The most significant transients occurred in the thickest epidermal layers with relatively high amounts of diffusion. Accordingly, these thickest epidermal layers also showed the greatest spaceflight induced transients of RBE relative to sea-level based atmosphere exposures.
oxygen enhancement ratio
solar particle event
International Space Station
Flores-McLaughlin, John (2016). A Mechanistic Model of Environmental Oxygen Influence on the Deterministic Effects to Human Skin from Space Radiations. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A & M University. Available electronically from