DEC 03, 2020 3:20 PM PST

Health Issues from Spaceflight Caused by Mitochondria

WRITTEN BY: Annie Lennon

Spending an extended time in space is known to impact various aspects of health, from muscle and bone regeneration to the functioning of organs, the cardiovascular system, and the nervous system. Now, researchers have found that disruptions in mitochondrial function may underly these negative health impacts. 

Mitochondria are tiny membrane-bound organelles known as cellular ‘powerhouses’ as they generate most of the chemical energy within cells. Should they lose function, there is less energy production within cells, which leads to many key processes and immune functions within the body to breakdown.

For their study, the researchers examined data from decades of research on astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS), including the famous Twin Study and DNA samples taken from 59 astronauts. They also analyzed information from the comprehensive NASA GeneLab database of animal studies at the Ames Research Center, an open-source platform that combines data from various areas of biology, from genomics and proteomics to metabolomics and glycomics. 

The first indication that mitochondria might be the leading culprit behind health issues after space flight came from comparing tissues from mice flown into space on separate missions. Whether they later ended up with problems in their eyes or liver, they found that the same pathways related to mitochondria were always implicated. 

These results were then supported by data from human astronaut studies, in which researchers noticed changes in cells within blood and urine samples that are attributable to altered mitochondrial activity.

“This is a big step toward figuring out how our bodies can live healthily off-world. And the good news is, this is a problem we can already start to tackle,” says Afshin Beheshti, lead author of the paper. “We can look at countermeasures and drugs we already use to deal with mitochondrial disorders on Earth to see how they might work in space, to start.”

 

Sources: Universe TodayNASACell

About the Author
  • Science writer with keen interests in technology and behavioral biology. Her current focus is on the interplay between these fields to create meaningful interactions, applications and environments.
You May Also Like
JUL 29, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
Molecular Footloose: Carbon Monoxide Molecules "Square Dance" with Each Other
JUL 29, 2020
Molecular Footloose: Carbon Monoxide Molecules "Square Dance" with Each Other
The act of "dancing" is not limited to humans, as scientists recently discovered. According to a group of Holl ...
AUG 24, 2020
Space & Astronomy
Asteroid May Collide With Earth in November
AUG 24, 2020
Asteroid May Collide With Earth in November
NASA has said that an asteroid known as 2018VP1 is heading towards Earth, and may potentially collide with our planet on ...
OCT 16, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
The "Missing" Laureate at 2020 Physics Nobel
OCT 16, 2020
The "Missing" Laureate at 2020 Physics Nobel
Last week, the science community celebrated the awarding of this year's Nobel Physics Prize to a trio of black hole ...
OCT 24, 2020
Space & Astronomy
The Closest Black Hole to Earth Isn't a Black Hole After All
OCT 24, 2020
The Closest Black Hole to Earth Isn't a Black Hole After All
Earlier this year, astronomers reportedly identified the 'closest black hole to Earth every discovered'. However ...
NOV 20, 2020
Space & Astronomy
The Universe is Getting Hotter, not Cooler, as it Expands
NOV 20, 2020
The Universe is Getting Hotter, not Cooler, as it Expands
Up until now, scientists have theorized that as the Universe expands, its temperature has gradually declined. New resear ...
JAN 08, 2021
Space & Astronomy
New Findings Suggest Dark Matter Doesn't Exist
JAN 08, 2021
New Findings Suggest Dark Matter Doesn't Exist
The existence of dark matter has been considered a 'given' for decades as a way to understand some of the less e ...
Loading Comments...