Space

Space travel is bad for the body at a cellular level

Space travel is bad for the bo...
Space travel is bad news for mitochondria, the powerhouse of cells
Space travel is bad news for mitochondria, the powerhouse of cells
View 1 Image
Space travel is bad news for mitochondria, the powerhouse of cells
1/1
Space travel is bad news for mitochondria, the powerhouse of cells

In more bad news for astronauts, a new study by the Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center suggests that space travel can cause a cell's mitochondria to malfunction due to changes in gravity and radiation.

When the idea of space travel was first taken seriously, solving the problem of living in space seemed pretty straightforward. Aside from the lack of gravity, it wouldn't be much more difficult than staying alive and comfortable in a submarine or a high-altitude aircraft. It was simply a matter of making sure that there was enough air, maintaining the right temperature, and controlling the humidity.

Unfortunately, in the almost six decades since the first human was launched into space, scientists have learned a great deal about how the human body reacts to living in the weightless, relatively high-radiation environment of space, and the answers have not been good. Space can have all manner of effects, including damaged vision, bone loss, muscle atrophy, and compromised immune systems.

The Georgetown Lombardi study now adds the depressing prospect that weightlessness and cosmic radiation, along with other factors, can also affect the body on a sub-cellular level by damaging the mitochondria – the powerhouse of the cell that turns sugar into energy.

In order to better understand these effects, the Georgetown Lombardi team looked at the tissue of mice that had flown in space, as well as drawing on NASA's collection of flown bio-specimens and astronaut data, including the space agency's Twin Study of astronauts Mark and Scott Kelly.

"My group’s research efforts centered around muscle tissue from mice that were sent into space and were compared with analyses by other scientists who studied different mouse tissue," says Evagelia C. Laiakis, PhD, an associate professor of oncology at Georgetown. "Although we each studied different tissue, we all came to the same conclusion: that mitochondrial function was adversely impacted by space travel."

The findings also showed that isolated cells were affected more than whole organs, and that the liver was affected more than other organs.

While this effect may be a matter of concern for astronauts on long voyages into deep-space, the bright side is that it can also help in developing better radiotherapy for cancer patients back on Earth.

“From this and other planned ventures to the moon, and eventually Mars, we hope to learn much more about the effects that spaceflight can have on metabolism, and how to potentially mitigate adverse effects for future space travelers,” says Laiakis.

The study was published in Cell.

Source: Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center

12 comments
Asa
They have designs for rotating habits that simulate earths gravity.easy solution.
Nobody
We weren't built for space travel so traveling to other stars will remain fiction. It is also the reason that space aliens won't be coming here either. Our only space ship will continue to be earth.
TomWatson
Here we go again! They are always saying "Getting high hurts you" . Nothing new here.
Username
@Nobody: There is no reason why technology won't eventually solve those problems. However until there is better shielding and functional artificial gravity humans should stop going to space.
bwana4swahili
Ultimately AI will advance to the point of advancing our step into the galaxy and beyond. Homo Machinicus will carry us beyond Earth!
Bill S.
All the zillions of dollars wasted and continue to be wasted on this stupidity of space travel. Money that could help people on this planet from starving to death. What a great waste for humanity.
Douglas Bennett Rogers
People proved going faster that 60 mph would kill you. They proved heavier than air flight was impossible. They proved supersonic flight was impossible. Going to the Moon was science fiction.
Worzel
I've seen a lot of articles that discuss all the elements that cause problems with human health, that are mentioned here, except ONE! Home sapiens evolved on this planet, specifically for this planet, no other. Some decades ago a number of experiments were carried out to see what effects environmental changes could have on the human body functions. These consisted of putting a group of people underground with no contact with the surface. One group settled down to a roughly 25 hour day, but living in artificial light for a month or more had little effect otherwise. However one thing that was found was that if placed in a Faraday cage, where their bodies were shielded from the planets natural frequency of around 8 Hz, their body systems went crazy within a couple of weeks! This is because many functions of the body use this frequency as a clock, and without it they cannot function correctly. It may be this that causes a cell's mitochondria to malfunction, rather than, or as well as, changes in gravity and radiation.
The results of this experiment seem to have been overlooked so far by all investigations that I've read. How this factor can be reproduced for astronauts, is a serious question.
Nobody
Gravity isn't the big problem. Cosmic rays are, particularly outside the solar system. Just one could scramble your brain. Then there is the problem of any meteors or tiny asteroids (even space dust) hitting a space ship with the force of millions or billions of times more energy than a high powered bullet. While the odds are less on a short trip, on a years long space flight the odds go up considerably. On any dark night you can see dozens of meteors which are within a hundred miles of you and bombard the earth continually. If a tiny cosmic ray can kill, how do you shield against anything larger? Disposable drones are the best solution. Send enough and a few will survive.
wolf0579
Screw the "we can't do it" types. All of you "Negative Nellies" can just go somewhere else and let us get down to figuring things out. We have the lowly Tradigrade for inspiration. We will gene-engineer the human body for whatever environment we need to deal with. Primitive Humans are an endangered species.