Prolonged Trips In Space Can Cause Potential Brain Damage

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Despite it being more than half a century since the first human ever reached space, the effects it has on our health haven’t been deeply studied. Most of it has been due to the ginormous amount of cost involved in sending a human to space.

In recent years, with advancements in technology, we have been able to send more people into space at lesser costs, as well as develop better simulations on Earth. As a result, for the first time, researchers can study the impacts of zero gravity and outer space on the human body with granular detail.

Just last month, the European Space Agency launched a program to study the effects of space on women by submerging them into water tanks. Now, new research has found that long periods in space can increase the risk of brain damage in humans.

Researchers from the University of Gothenburg, Sweden conducted an analysis on blood samples taken from five Russian cosmonauts after each completed a lengthy stay averaging about 169 days.

In a paper published in the journal JAMA Neurology, the researchers have revealed that increased concentrations of three biomarkers associated with brain damage were found in the cosmonauts’ blood samples after they returned to Earth.

The biomarkers found in the cosmonauts’ blood were glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP), neurofilament light (NFL), and amyloid beta-protein (Aβ40), all of which were elevated after the long stay aboard the International Space Station.

Previous research has linked space travel and the brain’s deterioration, including brain shrinkage. However, this is the first study to demonstrate the link with clear evidence to back it up.

“This is the first time that concrete proof of brain-cell damage has been documented in blood tests following space flights,” said Henrick Zetterberg, lead author of the paper and a neuroscientist at the University of Gothenburg.

Cover Image: Shutterstock

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