Astronauts’ blood samples continue to shed light on health risks from space flight

Scientists continue to use a collection of decades of blood samples taken by astronauts on space shuttles to understand the effects of space stress on human health.

In a new study, a team of international researchers describes how they studied exosomes, vehicles in the cell that contain the building blocks of life, such as DNA and RNA, a molecule that plays a role in gene expression. Analyzing samples from astronauts 10 days before space flight and again 3 days after their return to Earth, all between 1998 and 2001, the team found that a number of types of RNA, called microRNAs, had changed their expression.

“I think we’re just beginning to learn the value of these samples,” said Jennifer Fogarty, chief research officer at the Translational Research Institute for Space Health, who supported the study.

The new document confirms the use of 20-year-old blood samples for research, according to David Ghukasyan, a professor of medicine and cardiology at Icahn Medical School in Mount Sinai and lead author of the study. Their research shows that exosomes and the valuable burden they carry can be studied for decades because they are stored in blood samples. “This could accelerate our ability to detect and develop predictable biomarkers,” Ghukasyan said.

In March, Ghukasyan published a various study using astronauts’ blood samples. An earlier study examined a different type of RNA, called long noncoding RNA, and found that a number changed their expression under spaceflight stressors. Like the previous study, the new study reveals changes in miRNA expression that are linked to a number of diseases.

“Our research is trying to shed light on … changes in the expression of these microRNAs in astronauts before and after the flight,” said Venkata Garikipati, an assistant professor in the Department of Emergency Medicine at Ohio State University and lead author. .

As Raj Kishor, vice president of the Department of Cardiovascular Science at Temple University and co-author of the paper, explains, a man who shows the change in miRNA in his blood “may be predisposed to neurodegenerative diseases or maybe cancer or maybe heart disease.” – vascular disease in the future. ”

Earlier, NASA’s twin study documented identical twin astronauts Mark and Scott Kelly, as Scott spent a year aboard the International Space Station and Mark spent the same amount of time on Earth. The results of a study of twins documented in a similar way, Scott’s cells show unique changes in miRNA.

Although the study is informative of the biological effects of spaceflight stress, future research will be needed to understand the true effects of the changes in miRNA expression that the team is monitoring. Only seven different blood samples from astronauts were used in the study, and the average flight duration was only 12 days. Having access to larger sample sizes and more clinical data in the future will allow researchers to better understand the changes in miRNA they’ve seen – and what, if anything, scientists can do to mitigate potential diseases. that can cause.

Fogarty believes the work will open the door to other archival research samples to be used in research. “The findings really open up a new area of ​​research for NASA,” she said.

And although the samples are related to space flight, the study may have implications in the real world. “It’s really stressful and people are stressed out all their lives,” Fogarty said. “I just hope people have more value here than space flight, that they’re really coming back to Earth.”

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.