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Living in space destroys astronauts’ red blood cells


Astronaut Tim Peake’s first blood draw accomplished in area. (Credit: NASA)

Unsurprisingly, there are a lot of hazards in the case of prolonged stays in area, each psychological and bodily. These embody vestibular dysfunction, weight reduction, upward fluid shift, anemia, cardiovascular deconditioning, muscle atrophy, bone loss, and even mind harm. Understanding such challenges are important for future journey to Mars or staying on the moon. Now, a brand new examine out of the University of Ottawa has found that area journey also can trigger decrease purple blood cell counts.

The long-term examine, revealed in Nature Medicine, of 14 astronauts over a six-month mission on the International Space Station confirmed their our bodies destroyed 54% extra purple blood cells in microgravity than would usually happen on Earth. Previously, area anemia was simply considered a fast adaptation to fluids shifting into an astronaut’s higher physique when first arriving in area. It was additionally believed that astronauts quickly destroyed 10% of their purple blood cells to revive the stability, and that their purple blood cell management returned to regular after 10 days in area. Now, these views are altering.

“Space anemia has consistently been reported when astronauts returned to Earth since the first space missions, but we didn’t know why,” mentioned lead creator Guy Trudel, a rehabilitation doctor and researcher at The Ottawa Hospital and professor on the University of Ottawa. “Our study shows that upon arriving in space, more red blood cells are destroyed, and this continues for the entire duration of the astronaut’s mission.”

The destruction of purple blood cells isn’t one thing simply associated to area although — it’s simply that astronauts are shedding far more purple cells than they usually would on the bottom. Here on Earth, human our bodies create and destroy two million purple blood cells each second. The researchers found that astronauts had been killing off 54% extra purple blood cells throughout their prolonged keep. This resulted within the deaths of three million cells each second. These conclusions had been the identical for each feminine and males.

“Thankfully, having fewer red blood cells in space isn’t a problem when your body is weightless,” Trudel mentioned. “But when landing on Earth and potentially on other planets or moons, anemia affecting your energy, endurance and strength can threaten mission objectives. The effects of anemia are only felt once you land, and must deal with gravity again.”

To decide their findings, the crew measured the carbon monoxide breath samples of the astronauts. One molecule of carbon monoxide is produced each time one molecule of heme, the deep-red pigment in purple blood cells, is destroyed.

No detrimental results had been recorded, although, and it’s believed that the anemia is reversible. Three to 4 months after returning to Earth, counts had been progressively returning, albeit slowly with destruction nonetheless 30% above preflight ranges one yr after coming house.

The indisputable fact that long-term stays in area kill off an inordinate quantity of purple blood cells does increase a number of purple flags which want addressing. First, it helps screening astronauts or area vacationers for current blood or well being circumstances which might be affected by anemia. Second, a latest examine by Trudel’s crew discovered that the longer the area mission, the more serious the anemia, which may have an effect on prolonged missions to the Moon and Mars. Third, heightened purple blood cell manufacturing would require an tailored weight loss plan for astronauts. Finally, it’s unsure how lengthy the physique can maintain this elevated price of destruction and manufacturing of purple blood cells.

“This is the best description we have of red blood cell control in space and after return to Earth,” Trudel mentioned. “These findings are spectacular, considering these measurements had never been made before and we had no idea if we were going to find anything. We were surprised and rewarded for our curiosity.”


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