- A study provides evidence that long space missions may cause brain damage
- Blood samples were taken from 5 astronauts before and after their stay on the ISS for an average of 169 days
- Samples collected after the flight showed that three out of five biomarkers for brain injuries were elevated
A new study provides the first ‘convincing evidence’ that prolonged exposure to space can cause brain damage.
Researchers from the University of Gothenburg monitored five male Russian astronauts who stayed on the International Space Station (ISS) for an average of 169 days.
Blood samples were taken before the men left and once they returned to Earth, allowing scientists to measure five biomarkers for brain damage.
The results showed that the three markers became more elevated After astronauts have been in space for a long time.
Heinrich Zetterberg, professor of neuroscience and one of the study’s two senior co-authors, said in a Statement: ‘This is the first time that solid evidence of brain-cell damage has been documented in blood tests following space flights.
‘If space travel is to become more common in the future, it must be further explored and stopped.’
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A new study provides the first ‘concrete evidence’ that prolonged exposure to space can cause brain damage (stock photo)
Blood samples were taken from astronauts before and after missions aboard the ISS from 2016 to 2020, with the average stay no more than 169 days.
The first samples were collected 20 days before each individual headed to the ISS, and then three times after the flight: one day, one week, and 21 to 25 days after landing.
The five biomarkers analyzed included: neurofilament light (NFL), glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP), total tau (t-tau), and two amyloid beta proteins.
Concentrations were significantly increased after space migration for three biomarkers—NFL, GFAP and amyloid beta protein Aβ40.
Researchers monitored five Russian astronauts who stayed on the International Space Station for an average of 169 days. Blood samples were taken before the men left and once they returned to Earth, allowing scientists to measure five biomarkers for brain damage.
Peak readings did not occur simultaneously after the men returned to Earth, as some occurred on the first day, while others landed on day 25.
However, the researchers note that their biomarker trends nevertheless broadened over time.
The findings, according to the study published in JAMA Neurology, suggest that there was a change of fluid in the brain while the men spent time in space that could affect the blood–brain barrier.
DailyMail.com has contacted NASA for comment on this study.
The five people spent an average of 169 days, but the other astronauts stayed twice as long in the final range.
Russian cosmonaut Valery Polyakov spent 437 days on the Mir space station from 1994 and 1995, still holding the record for the longest man in space.
NASA’s Scott Kelly clocked in at 340 days from 2015 to 2016 and Christina Koch, famous for participating in the first-ever female spacewalk, spent 328 days in space aboard the ISS in 2019.
A NASA-backed study released in 2019 also looked at the effects of space travel on the human brain.
The five people spent an average of 169 days, but the other astronauts stayed twice as long in the final range. Russian cosmonaut Valery Polyakov (pictured) spent 437 days on the Mir space station from 1994 and 1995, still holding the record for the longest time a person has been in space.
Brain scans of astronauts before and after spaceflight revealed changes typically associated with long-term processes such as aging, including a decline in areas responsible for movement and processing of sensory information.
However, the results also suggest that an astronaut’s brain may be able to adapt to these changes over time.
“We know that fluid moves head-on in space,” said Rachel Seidler, a professor in the College of Health and Human Performance at the University of Florida. Statement.
‘When you look at photos and videos of astronauts, their faces often look puffy, because gravity is not pulling the fluid into the body.’
These gravitational effects don’t just wear off on the surface—according to the new study, spaceflight directly affects the brain’s white matter in areas that control motion and process sensory information.
NASA’s Scott Kelly (left) looked at 340 days from 2015 to 2016 and Christina Koch (right), famous for participating in the first all-female spacewalk, spent 328 days in space aboard the ISS in 2019 .
The team found that spaceflight caused fluid to accumulate around the brain at the base of the cerebrum, as if the brain was ‘floating up’ in the skull.
It may play a key role in a condition called Spaceflight Associated Neuro-ocular Syndrome, which causes visual changes and flattening of the back of the eye.
“It could be slow fluid turnover, it could be pressure on the optic nerve or the brain tugging on the optic nerve because it’s floating more in the skull,” Seidler said.
But, researchers say, white matter problems do not appear to be permanent.
Typically, these changes heal within a few weeks after the astronauts return to Earth.
However, some changes can last for months.