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Astronauts experience these key changes in space that could impact their health, new research shows

November 25, 2020. Summarized by summa-bot.

ZHEZKAZGAN, KAZAKHSTAN - MARCH 2: In this handout provided by NASA, Expedition 46 Commander Scott Kelly of NASA rest in a chair outside of the Soyuz TMA-18M spacecraft just minutes after he and Russian cosmonauts Mikhail Kornienko and Sergey Volkov of Roscosmos landed in a remote area on March 2, 2016 near the town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan. Kelly and Kornienko completed an International Space Station record year-long mission to collect valuable data on the effect of long duration weightlessness on the human body that will be used to formulate a human mission to Mars. Volkov returned after spending six months on the station. (Photo by Bill Ingalls/NASA via Getty Images)

Scientists have gathered the largest set of data about space biology to date based on astronauts, mice and insects that have flown on the space station to better understand what happens to the human body in space.

The 2019 NASA Twins Study provided an all-encompassing look at the effects of spending nearly a year in space on the human body when NASA astronaut Scott Kelly spent 340 days on the International Space Station while his identical twin Mark (now a US Senator-elect from Arizona) was on Earth.

The 30 studies, authored by more than 200 researchers from around the world, represent the largest body of information on the risks of space flight to the human body.

"Understanding the health implications from the (6) features and developing effective countermeasures and health systems are key steps in enabling humanity to reach the next stage of space exploration," the authors wrote at the conclusion of their study spanning the effects of spaceflight.

During the Twins Study, the telomeres in Scott's white blood cells actually grew longer in space and returned to a normal length after he returned to Earth.

"We now have a foundation to build on - things we know to look for in future astronauts, including telomere length changes and DNA damage responses," said Susan Bailey, author on three of the studies and Colorado State University professor, said in a statement.

"We started by asking whether there is some kind of universal mechanism happening in the body in space that could explain what we've observed," said Afshin Beheshti, senior study author and a principal investigator and bioinformatician at NASA's Ames Research Center in California, in a statement.

"For the first time, we can see the cellular and molecular changes that may underlie the heart conditions seen in astronaut studies," said Karen Ocorr, co-senior author of the study and assistant professor in the Development, Aging and Regeneration Program at Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute, in a statement.

"As we continue our work to establish a colony on the moon and send the first astronauts to Mars, understanding the effects of extended time in microgravity on the human body is imperative," said Sharmila Bhattacharya, study author and senior scientist at NASA, in a statement.

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