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A team of gifted elementary school students discovered that EpiPens, life-saving devices that inject epinephrine in the case of a severe allergic reaction, can become toxic after launch into space – further evidence of the damaging health effects of space radiation. Astronauts
The students helped researchers at the University of Ottawa in Canada investigate whether the devices could be used safely in space.
But there’s some bad news: relatively small amounts of space radiation break down epinephrine, making it a health hazard rather than a life saver — previously unknown to NASA. Live Science Report
Students from St. Brother Andre Elementary School’s Program for Gifted Learners (PGL) sampled epinephrine, on themselves and inside EpiPens, launched into space as part of NASA’s CubeSat in Space program.
The University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Science then analyzed the returned samples and found that the epinephrine was only 87 percent pure because of cosmic radiation, according to a statement.
The remaining 13 percent is converted to benzoic acid derivatives, which are highly toxic.
“As part of Cubes in Space, students put two cubes together, one to go in a rocket and the other in a high-altitude balloon,” University of Ottawa chemistry professor Paul Mayer said in the statement. “‘After’ samples show signs that epinephrine reacts and decomposes.”
“In fact, no epinephrine was found ‘after’ in the EpiPen solution sample,” he added. “This result raises questions about the efficacy of an EpiPen for space applications, and these questions are now beginning to be addressed by the PGL program.”
The experiment could have lasting effects on how we treat allergic reactions in space.
“These results raise questions about the efficacy of the EpiPen for outer space applications, and these questions are now beginning to be addressed by the children in the (Program for Gifted Learners) program,” Mayer said.
Fortunately, all is not lost. There may be a way to package EpiPen solutions in a way that doesn’t expose them to cosmic radiation — an innovation that could save an astronaut’s life in the future.
Read more: Elementary school students prove that EpiPens become toxic in space—something NASA never knew (Live Science)
More on cosmic radiation: Astronauts on Mars will receive terrifying doses of radiation, study finds