It is a well-known fact that it is not easy to survive in space. There are significant impacts on the health of living beings in the harsh atmosphere of space. A team of scientists of NASA’s Twins study has provided an elaborated look at the effects of spending at least a year in space on humans. Experts have found the underlying reasons for such effects as well. They have said that the powerhouse of energy, Mitochondria goes through many changes during spaceflight. The study has used the data from a decade long experimental research on the International Space Station. The data of 59 other astronauts, mice, and insects as well have been used in the study. Around 30 studies done by around 200 scientists across the world have shown huge information on the risk of spaceflight linked to a human body. The findings of these studies have been published in the journal Cell.
These studies have identified six molecular changes that might affect the health of astronauts in space. Experts have said that it is necessary to understand these molecular alterations to prepare a safe and long-term spaceflight mission to the moon and Mars in the future. As per the studies, the six molecular changes, which occur during spaceflight missions, are DNA damage, oxidative stress, changes in the telomere length, and shifts in the microbiome, mitochondrial dysfunction, and gene regulation. Oxidative stress occurs when free radicals overpower antioxidants present in a cell. It is triggered by the space atmosphere. This kind of stress has been linked to other molecular changes, which have been observed by the experts. These changes on a cellular and molecular level can significantly impact the health of the astronauts during and after the mission. These changes as well as affect the cardiovascular, central nervous, musculoskeletal, immune, and gastrointestinal systems of the astronauts. Such molecular or cellular changes lead to disturbances in the circadian rhythm and changes in the vision. These changes are linked to a higher risk of cancer as well. As per the experts, clonal hematopoiesis has been found in the blood samples of astronauts 20 years before the average age. Normally it is detected at the age of 70 years.
In the new study, the blood samples of 10 astronauts who have been protected from radiation and have spent around 6 months on the space station have shown some evidence of DNA damage. The telomere of the astronauts has extended due to severe oxidative stress continued during spaceflight. The findings of this study have been compared to the results of the Twin study. Once these astronauts have returned to the earth, the length of their telomere has been shorter than before the spaceflight. Well, experts have said this can lead to other health risks than serving as a fountain of youth. Health issues such as muscle and bone loss, heart and liver issues, and immune malfunction are linked to a major condition called mitochondrial dysfunction. Scientists have said that mitochondria, which are responsible for generating chemical energy essential for cells, it stops working properly when exposed to change in gravity or radiation. This research has included the data from the Twin study, animal studies, and samples from 59 astronauts. Experts have seen that when the mitochondria are restrained, a ripple effect occurs in the liver, other organs, and the immune system. In another study, experts have observed fruit flies as well, which are born on the space station. They have found that their hearts have been much smaller and have not been pumping enough blood effectively. Experts have claimed that if astronauts stay on the moon or Mars for an extended period they might deal with a similar kind of condition.