Astronauts can experience difficult circumstances when traveling in space and planets such as the Moon and Mars, which are fraught with health risks.
NASA has now initiated an investigation into how “model organisms” – or other forms of life biologically comparable to humans – are affected by gravity, radiation and other effects of being in space, in preparation for future space travel. long-lasting, reports the times of technology.
Artificial gravity appears to offer some protection from these alterations, according to recent results from a study using fruit flies at the International Space Station.
The study results suggest that space travel does impact the central nervous system, but that artificial gravity provides partial protection against these changes, the results published in Cell Reports.
“Microgravity poses risks to the central nervous system, suggesting that countermeasures may be needed for long-duration space travel,” said Dr. Janani Iyer, project scientist at the University Space Research Association at the Ames Research Center. of NASA in Silicon Valley and co-author of the article published in Cell Reports.
“As we venture back to the Moon and Mars, reducing the damaging effects of microgravity will be the key to keeping future explorers safe. This study is a step in the right direction to explore the protective effects of artificial gravity in space and to understand adaptation to Earth conditions after returning from space.
Fruit flies are the ideal organism for this type of research because there is considerable overlap between the cellular and molecular processes of flies and humans.
Nearly 75% of the disease-causing genes in humans are shared by fruit flies, meaning that the more we learn about fruit flies, the more scientists have to investigate the impact of the space environment on human health.
Flies also have a much shorter lifespan of about two months and reproduce after only two weeks, meaning the three weeks that flies spend in space equates to about three decades of a human’s life, providing scientists more biological information in a shorter time interval.
In the study, the scientists sent flies to the space station on a mission, in newly developed hardware, called the Multi-Use Variable-Gravity Platform, which is capable of hosting flies at varying degrees of severity, reports the University Space Research Association. .
After returning to Earth, the flies were returned to Ames for further analysis, and the scientists worked around the clock for two days to sort them out and perform behavioral and biochemical tests.
The study was one of the first of its kind to take an “integrated approach to how the space environment affects the nervous system,” and the scientists examined the behavior of flies by observing the movements of flies as they moved around their habitat. changes that occurred at the cellular level in their brains and how changes in gene expression impacted the nervous system.
The study results suggest that spaceflight causes stress in the fly’s cells leading to negative behavioral and neurological impacts, as well as changes in gene expression in the fly’s brain.
However, the use of artificial gravity can provide relief, although there are still long-term health implications.
The two groups of space-traveling flies both showed “symptoms of impaired metabolism, oxidative stress in their cells, and damaging effects on their nervous system,” reports Tech Times.
However, it was found that flies that had been kept in conditions of artificial gravity were protected from “oxidative damage, cell death, loss of neurons and alterations in glial cell numbers,” he said.
“With the upcoming long-duration deep space missions in which astronauts will be exposed to varying degrees of gravity, it is imperative to understand the impact of altered gravity on neurological function,” said Dr Siddhita Mhatre, co-author of the book. paper.
“If we can use artificial gravity to delay space-related deficits, perhaps we can extend future mission timelines. And flying into space, together with astronauts, will help promote our efforts to keep astronauts healthy ”.