Want to travel to space, gentlemen? You might return with erectile dysfunction


Male wannabe astronauts who can afford the astronomical fees for a private seat on a space flight, should be aware that they may return impotent. — dpa

With seats onboard Virgin Galactic costing US$450,000 (RM2,105,550), space tourism remains a literal flight of fantasy for most people.

And even such well-heeled amateur astronauts would do well to bone up on the potential health impacts of space flight.

This is as it’s not just the price that should prompt second thoughts, at least among men.

If recent experiments on rats are anything to go by, a successful rocket launch may lead to erectile dysfunction in male passengers.

“Vascular alterations are induced by relatively low doses of galactic cosmic radiation, and to a lesser extent, simulated weightlessness, primarily through increases in oxidative stress,” the study, published in The FASEB Journal, reported.

And the results suggest that men would be best advised to go to great lengths to avoid space travel, which can “negatively affect vascular tissues relevant to erectile dysfunction, even after a period of long-term recovery”.

Erectile dysfunction, or impotence, affects an estimated half of men at some stage of their lives, usually in their middle or later years, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Causes include stress, smoking, diabetes and heart disease, leading to marital breakdown in some cases.

“With manned missions to outer space planned for the coming years, this work indicates that sexual health should be closely monitored in astronauts upon their return to Earth,” warned Florida State University assistant professor Dr Justin D. La Favor, whose research focuses on erectile dysfunction.

Other health concerns have been raised about space exploration and travel.

Research published in the journal Frontiers in Immunology in mid-2023 found people to be more susceptible to infections while in space, with rashes, Epstein-Barr virus, herpes and shingles listed. – dpa

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