NASA via Getty Images
NASA via Getty Images

This article is based on an article from the Japanese edition of Engadget and was created using the translation tool Deepl.

Astronauts who stay on the International Space Station (ISS) for long periods of time are found to be more prone to health problems such as disruptions in their biological clocks and an enlarged heart. Scientists have been searching for the cause, but a new study published in the journal Cell explains that it is due to changes in the mitochondria within cells.

Afshin Beheshti of KBR, a defense engineering firm that supports the NASA Ames Research Center, found, among other things, from a survey of 59 astronauts who have spent long periods of time on the ISS, that life in space affects changes in the hundreds of mitochondria in a single human cell.

Mitochondria are a source of energy for cells that stimulate metabolism and generate heat. If this activity is reduced, for example, the function of metabolically active internal organs is weakened and the immune system is more likely to be impaired.

The study began by examining tissue changes in mice before and after their stay in space to determine the relationship between mitochondria and spaceflight. The scientists noticed mitochondrial dysfunction in any of the mice that stayed in space on separate missions. For example, "Whether we were looking at problems in the eyes or in the liver, the same pathways related to mitochondria were the source of the problem," said Beheshti.

In addition, analysis of blood and urine samples from a number of astronauts who have stayed on the ISS shows evidence that life in space is still linked to changes in mitochondrial activity, which may also explain the changes in the immune system of astronaut Scott Kelly, who spent a year on the station in 2015.

The findings confirm concerns that astronauts may encounter some health challenges on their upcoming trips to the moon or Mars. However, it's good to know about the possibility and have time to think about it in advance, as opposed to finding out about it after they've left without knowing what to expect.

"This is a big step toward figuring out how our bodies can live healthily off-world," said Beheshti.

Mitochondria are a powerhouse for cells and may be a research topic that will determine the future of astrobiology research.

Source: Cell Press


This article is based on an article from the Japanese edition of Engadget and was created using the translation tool Deepl. The Japanese edition of Engadget does not guarantee the accuracy or reliability of this article.