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Mitochondrial Changes Key to Health Problems in Space

28 Nov 2020, 13:55 UTC
Mitochondrial Changes Key to Health Problems in Space
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Astronaut Scott Kelly is working with the Microgravity Sciences Glovebox during a Rodent Research session with Bone Densitometer. (Credit: NASA)

by Frank TavaresNASA’s Ames Research Center

MOFFETT FIELD, Calif. — Living in space isn’t easy. There are notable impacts on the biology of living things in the harsh environment of space. A team of scientists has now identified a possible underlying driver of these impacts: the powerhouse of the cell, called mitochondria, experiences changes in activity during spaceflight.

Recently published in the journal Cell, these results used data collected over decades of experimental research on the International Space Station, including samples from 59 astronauts. Studies such as these are critical to understanding the effects of low gravity, radiation, confined spaces, and more as NASA sends astronauts deep into space for extended missions to the Moon, Mars, and beyond.

“We’ve found a universal mechanism that explains the kinds of changes we see to the body in space, and in a place we didn’t expect,” said Afshin Beheshti the lead author on the paper and a researcher with KBR, which provides contract support to NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley. “Everything gets thrown out of whack and it all starts ...

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