Spaceflight Elevates Risk of Gut Diseases, Reveals New Study

Flying high is everybody’s dream in life. However, only astronauts live this dream in its ultimate form with the journey never stopping. While spaceflight has its own perks, sometimes it can pose a threat to the human health as well.

A new study, headed by Qing Ge from the Peking University Health Center in Peking, Beijing has shown that spaceflight can cause the person a bad instance of diarrhea.


Photo Credit: NASA

For the research, the scientists put mice to kindled spaceflight situations, and discovered that the bacteria balance and the purpose of immune cells in the gut, altered. This occurrence resulted to augmented bowel inflammation.

For the research, Ge and team utilized four groups of mice. The mice in the first and third groups were dangled by their tails at a 15 degree head-down inclination with their hindlimbs hanged for 14 days. Food and water was provided only through water bottles, gel packs, and food was spread across the floor of the cage. The mice indicated no harmful effects on their bodies or considerable reduction of weight.

The mice of the second and fourth groups were normal. Commencing from the seventh day, the third and the fourth groups were given three percent dextran sulfate sodium mixed in drinking water to instigate inflammatory gut diseases while the first and the second groups obtained plain water.

In comparison to the second ground control group, the mice from the first group whose hindlimbs were dangled showed changed intestinal bacteria composition, reduced monitoring T cells, elevated neutrophils, and imbalance of pro as well as anti-inflammatory cytokines in the colon tissues. The third group whose hindlimbs were also dangled had even more acute inflammatory bowel diseases in comparison to the fourth control group. This “even more acute” condition involved higher reduction of weight, more critical rectal bleeding and destruction of tissue and elevated mortality rates in the mice with suspended hindlimbs after colitis was introduced.

Qing Ge said that their research offers beneficial understanding on the cross-monitoring of the mucosal immune system, epithelial obstacle and commensal bacteria “not only in humans in spaceflight or analog, but also in humans on earth that undergo various stresses.”

The study was published in “The FASEB Journal”.

Gerald Weissmann, who is the Editor-in-Chief of “The FASEB Journal” pointed out that it is already a known fact that a journey to Mars and back to earth can have critical and probably permanent effects on the astronauts’ bodies, but this new study shows that the bacteria in their guts will also be affected. “This lends further credence to the fact that life on Earth, including the microbiome, evolved under gravity and needs it to thrive,” he added.

According to an article by Discovery Channel, there are both short term and long term effects on human body due to spaceflight. The short term effects involve changes in red blood cells where the cells become more spherical, even lesser in number; motion sickness like dizziness, vomiting, nausea, headaches; and loss of muscle among many others. The long term effects involve loss of bone due to fading of calcium and phosphorus, found in urine and feces, from weightlessness; and exposure to intense radiation that can elevate the risk of heart disease, cancer, cataracts, etc.

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