New Report Reveals Effect of Space Travel on the Human Body

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New Report Reveals Effect of Space Travel on the Human Body

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  • Andrea Miliani

    Written by: Andrea Miliani Tech Writer

  • Kate Richards

    Fact-Checked by Kate Richards Content Manager

The collaborative project Space Omics and Medical Atlas (SOMA) released to the public the largest package of studies and data on aerospace medicine and biology ever registered last Tuesday.

The studies combine the work of over 100 institutions across 25 countries and were published in the journal Nature, considering samples from astronauts and the civilian crew from the mission Inspiration4 during commercial travel with SpaceX in 2021.

Inspiration4 crew—with little knowledge of research and data processes—agreed to contribute to science and registered biological changes with modern technologies. The civilian crew was only in orbit for 3 days—professional astronaut missions usually last between 180 to 365 days—but the information gathered was sufficient enough to aid studies, and new discoveries were even made.

“While in orbit, the Inspiration4 crew performed an extensive battery of scientific experiments, which have now been processed, sequenced, and analyzed,” states the publication.

According to TechCrunch, the Inspiration4 crew wore Apple Watches and environmental sensors were installed in the capsule allowing researchers to correlate data. In an interview with TechCrunch, Dr. Dorit Donoviel, co-author of one of the papers and associate professor in the Center for Space Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, explains that “it gave researchers unique insights into how changes in the confined environment affected things like heart rate or cognitive performance.”

Experts are trying to reduce mental load and use modern technology to register and process data—NASA still implements test models from 1970.

The 44 papers released by SOMA include different research based on “molecular, cellular, physiological, phenotypic, and spaceflight data.” Users can access all the raw data at NASA’s Open Science Data Repository and new portals have also been created to browse more results.

Nature’s findings show that space travel causes changes in RNA transcripts that affect health, such as kidney problems. It also highlights epigenomic changes—alterations in DNA after space travel—and notes that female astronauts’ bodies return to normal faster than males. Additionally, there are shifts in cellular states and microbiomes. The journal includes related studies and infographics to help explain these phenomena.

“These data can serve as a springboard for new experiments, hypotheses, and follow-up studies, as well as guide future mission planning and countermeasure development,” states the document. “This package shows how the modern tools of molecular biology and precision medicine can help guide humanity into more challenging missions, which will be critical for a permanent presence on the moon, Mars, and beyond.”

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