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Damage Wednesday

Posted by James Dubois in Uncategorized.
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Monthly physicals were up and the results across the ships is consistent. We have quite a few people with post-cryonics health concerns. Jayesh continues to be in and out of the infirmary with nagging problems. He’s not the only one. Acute radiation syndrome is what Dr. Flores called it. She told me that creeping doses of GCR’s that penetrated the mass shielding of the lifeboats caused tissue damage to those people who started the mission as active passengers (rather than staying in the pods).

There’s something else she explained to me called radiation hormesis. It’s the idea that low-levels of constant radiation can actually strengthen the body’s defense systems, kind of like a vaccine against radiation poisoning. I looked through the numbers and did some mental calculations, figured out most of us have exceeded our safe limit of radiation exposure. This is doubly concerning because for whatever reason, the American team (including myself) seems to posses a statistically high number of people who went the opposite way, cells that are not being repaired or worse, tumor-resisting genes that are undergoing mutation. Ionizing radiation sickness was anticipated as a possible hazard, but not at this level of severity. Our stays in the Ripley pods helped to mitigate some of the exposure and the present levels (while constant) are not extreme. Passing through the Van Allen Belt, for example, was fairly quick and the active crew and passengers were fairly protected by mass shielding in specially-designed quarters (this is in and around the med bay, where extra precaution was taken to keep the blood supply free of mrem contamination).

We’re wearing badges that gauge mrem levels and undergoing weekly blood tests to check our blood cell counts. We’re not in immediate danger, the existing damage plus prolonged exposure could lead to what she calls chronic radiation syndrome, which will most assuredly cause deaths, especially in the older population. Treatment in the form of androstenediol and immune system boosters found in some kinds of fungus are available but we’ll need to find other solutions. One is to use stem cells stored in the medical bay to promote haematopoiesis. Qiong and Leona are talking about the synthetic polymers used to keep our blood from crystallizing during the cryonics process. If these can be used to supplement existing blood cell counts in active patients, there’s potential for great things. But this is all theoretical. Any actual progress will take time and might be beyond our abilities. The med bays on our lifeboats aren’t capable of supporting this level of research and development. We’d need personnel dedicated to this task (which we don’t have at the moment) and a base of operations larger and better equipped than our current facilities. And because we’d be engaging in delicate biotech operations, we need to set up a ISO 4 (Class 10) sterile clean room, which we could have to built off-spec as the current blue-prints for Phase I of CHOIRS are limited to ISO 5 standards (Class 100 in terms of particulate concentration — suitable for microchip fabrication and other industry but way too dirty for what we’ll need).

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