The peculiar question of how sex in space could work could be shelved for the time being as a study has found astronauts are at higher risk of erectile dysfunction whilst at work.
According to research performed on rats, exposure to cosmic radiation and weightlessness in space could increase the risk of every man's worst nightmare. A new study published on November 22 in The FASEB Journal found that male rats' exposure to simulated galactic cosmic radiation (GCR) and weightlessness impaired the function of the erectile tissue.
These effects were observed even after a year-long recovery period, Live Science reported.
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"This work indicates that sexual health should be closely monitored in astronauts upon their return to Earth," co-senior study author Justin La Favor, an assistant professor who studies neurovascular dysfunction at Florida State University, told the title in an email.
Studies have shown exposure to GCR could lead to certain cancers, neurological damage and cardiovascular disease and a six-month stay on the International Space Station will give astronauts a dose of radiation from cosmic rays equivalent to about 25 lifetimes on Earth's surface.
Both GCR and weightlessness "are associated with adverse health outcomes, although the effects on erectile function had not previously been investigated," La Favor said.
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During the study, 86 adult male rats were exposed to a simulated weightlessness and one dose of either low or high amounts of cosmic radiation in a separate lab.
Around 12 to 13 months later, the authors euthanized the rodents and extracted samples from the erectile tissue of the penis and the major artery that regulates the flow of blood into the penis during an erection.
They discovered that GCR, and to a lesser extent weightlessness, impaired the function of both types of tissue.
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