Houston we have a problem: Microgravity accelerates biological aging

October 31, 2013

As nations strive to put humans farther into space for longer periods of time, the real loser in this new space race could be the astronauts themselves. That's because experiments conducted on the International Space Station involving cells that line the inner surfaces of blood vessels (endothelial cells) show that microgravity accelerates cardiovascular disease and the biological aging of these cells. These findings are presented in a new research report published in November 2013 issue of The FASEB Journal.

"Understanding the cellular and molecular events of senescence might help in finding preventive measures that are useful to improve the quality of life of millions of people," said Silvia Bradamante, a researcher involved in the work from the CNR-ISTM, Institute of Molecular Science and Technologies in Milan, Italy. "Our study further supports the role of oxidative stress in accelerating aging and disease."

In this report, Bradamante and colleagues examined in real microgravity aboard the International Space Station and conducted deep gene expression and protein analysis on the cells. They compared space-flown endothelial cells to endothelial cells cultured under normal gravity, looking for differences in and/or in the profile of secreted proteins. Space-flown cells differentially expressed more than 1,000 genes and secreted high amounts of pro-inflammatory cytokines. Ultimately, this induced significant oxidative stress, causing inflammation among endothelial cells, which in turn, led to atherosclerosis and (biological aging).

"As we plan to send people deeper into space than ever before, and for longer flights, we've got to make sure that they remain in best health possible," said Gerald Weissmann, M.D., Editor-in-Chief of The FASEB Journal. "We've evolved to rely on gravity to regulate our biology, and without it, our tissues become confused. Worst of all: they age faster!"

Explore further: Adult stem cells help build human blood vessels in engineered tissues

More information: Silvia Versari, Giulia Longinotti, Livia Barenghi, Jeanette Anne Marie Maier, and Silvia Bradamante. The challenging environment on board the International Space Station affects endothelial cell function by triggering oxidative stress through thioredoxin interacting protein overexpression: the ESA-SPHINX experiment. FASEB J November 2013 27:4466-4475; DOI: 10.1096/fj.13-229195

Related Stories

Just two weeks in orbit causes changes in eyes

October 24, 2013

Just 13 days in space may be enough to cause profound changes in eye structure and gene expression, report researchers from Houston Methodist, NASA Johnson Space Center, and two other institutions in the October 2013 issue ...

Recommended for you

Closer look reveals tubule structure of endoplasmic reticulum

October 28, 2016

(Phys.org)—A team of researchers from the U.S. and the U.K. has used high-resolution imaging techniques to get a closer look at the endoplasmic reticulum (ET), a cellular organelle, and in so doing, has found that its structure ...

Computer model is 'crystal ball' for E. coli bacteria

October 28, 2016

It's difficult to make predictions, especially about the future, and even more so when they involve the reactions of living cells—huge numbers of genes, proteins and enzymes, embedded in complex pathways and feedback loops. ...

Ten months in the air without landing

October 27, 2016

Common swifts are known for their impressive aerial abilities, capturing food and nest material while in flight. Now, by attaching data loggers to the birds, researchers reporting in the Cell Press journal Current Biology ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.