Weightlessness affects health of cosmonauts at molecular level

Weightlessness affects health of cosmonauts at molecular level
Space abstraction. Credit: MIPT's Press Office

A team of scientists from Russia and Canada has analyzed the effect of space conditions on the protein composition in blood samples of 18 Russian cosmonauts. The results indicate many significant changes in the human body are caused by space flight. These changes are intended to help the body adapt and take place in all major types of human cells, tissues and organs. The results of the research have been published in the prestigious scientific journal Scientific Reports. Skoltech and MIPT Professor Evgeny Nikolaev led the study and is a corresponding author.

The effects of spaceflight on the human body have been studied actively since the mid-20th century. It is widely known that space conditions influence metabolism, thermoregulation, heart biorhythms, muscle tone, the respiratory system and other physiological aspects of the human body. However, the molecular mechanisms driving these physiological changes remain unknown.

The scientists focused on proteins, key players in the adaptive processes in an organism. To gain a deeper understanding of the changes in human physiology during space travel, the research team quantified concentrations of 125 proteins in the blood plasma of 18 Russian cosmonauts who had been on long-duration missions to the International Space Station. The blood was drawn 30 days prior to their flights, and again immediately after their return to Earth, and a final sample seven days after that. This timing was chosen to identify trends in protein changes and see how fast the protein concentrations returned to their normal levels prior to the flight.

Protein concentrations were measured using a mass spectrometer. This technology makes it possible to identify a particular molecule and perform a quantitative analysis of a mixture of substances. The scientists found proteins whose concentrations remained unchanged, as well as those whose concentrations did change, but recovered rapidly to their pre-flight levels, and those whose levels recovered very slowly after the cosmonaut's return to Earth.

"For the research, we took a set of proteins—non-infectious disease biomarkers. The results showed that in weightlessness, the immune system acts like it does when the body is infected, because the human body doesn't know what to do and tries to turn on all possible defense systems. For this study, we began by using quantitative proteomics to study the cosmonauts' blood indicators, so we detected not only the presence of a but its amount, as well. We plan to use a targeted approach in the future to detect more specific proteins responsible for the human response to space conditions. To do this, the cosmonauts will have to take blood tests while in orbit," said Professor Nikolaev.

The factors that affect the human body during spaceflight are different from those that influence human evolution on Earth. It is not known if the human body has mechanisms responsible for rapidly adapting to such major changes. The results of the study indicate that such mechanisms probably do not exist, because during space flight, these adaptations take place in all the major types of , tissues, and organs. This indicates that the does not know what to do and is trying to do everything in its power.

Explore further

The immune system in space

More information: Irina M. Larina et al. Protein expression changes caused by spaceflight as measured for 18 Russian cosmonauts, Scientific Reports (2017). DOI: 10.1038/s41598-017-08432-w
Journal information: Scientific Reports

Citation: Weightlessness affects health of cosmonauts at molecular level (2017, August 30) retrieved 26 June 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2017-08-weightlessness-affects-health-cosmonauts-molecular.html
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.

Feedback to editors

User comments

Aug 30, 2017
This is more disturbing evidence of Human frailty. Human dependence upon upon the Mother World.

Contrary to all the comicbooks and HollyBollyHonglywood films, Human adaptation for the physically and mentally elite among us, will be very difficult.

And pointless, unless we develop the means for women to safely bear children outside of the biosphere we evolved in.

Begging the question, are we as a society? Are you reading this, personally willing? To pay the Butchers Bill it will take to enable off-Earth pregnancies and births?

Aug 30, 2017
Unless we are able to either replicate our environment in spacecraft, or change our physical selves to adapt, it will be our AI progeny that colonize the cosmos. They will be able to outlive our birth planetary system.

Aug 31, 2017
Our major problem presently is that we have only a tiny micro-gravity station. True spaceflight will HAVE to have large enough craft to be able to simulate gravity by centripetal accelleration and a magnetic field to repel a majority of radiation. We are still in the beginning stages of space exploration, and are confined, presently, to LEO.

To say that we are too frail to colonize space does humanity a major disservice, instead state it accurately: our technology level is very low in the space field, and will improve. Colonization has been done in some very hostile places on Earth and we have peoples living in extremes from desert to Arctic conditions and everything between. Often technology has made the difference, loose robes in the heat to shade, furs and waterproofing in the Arctic, and people survive.

We will do the same, overcome hazards to living conditions with technology, and survive. Humans adapt, and if we cannot adapt ourselves, we change our surroundings instead.

Aug 31, 2017
Precisely why "artificial gravity" via inertia must be achieved for a space faring society. (Let alone shielding needed for destructive cosmic rays.)

Aug 31, 2017
Okay folks, lets take this from the top.

Are you personally, willing to sacrifice YOUR womenfolk and infants? To your delusions of heroic achievement built upon a foundation of OTHER peoples bodies?

Have you even considered how you are going to sell women the 'duty' of putting THEIR lives on the line? Or, do YOU just intend to enslave females and force them to produce?

To YOUR self-serving profit. While boasting of YOUR accomplishments?

Aug 31, 2017
Why ask me if I am willing to sacrifice womenfolk...why not ask the women what THEY think about the situation. They are more likely to tell you that it is not much different raising a child in one place, doing one job, than it is in another place doing a different job, as women all over this world do today. Who is sacrificing? The individuals involved will be taking a calculated risk, but that risk is inherent in every birth anyways. Did or does heavy childbirth deaths of both mother and/or child in third world nations stop people from having kids?

Why in or out of the world would you expect women to not risk having children since that is the Major Point of Colonization: Having multiple, continuing generations building a New Home for Humanity. Just like we have been doing for all of our very long evolution to the point we are at now, and we are evolving further, building bigger and going a lot farther.

Sep 01, 2017
And what's wrong with adaptation?

Sep 01, 2017
Precisely why "artificial gravity" via inertia must be achieved for a space faring society. (Let alone shielding needed for destructive cosmic rays.)

Yup...And also why we should be cautious about any such ideas like 'colonies on the Moon' or other low gravity bodies (Mars may be OK...maybe)

And what's wrong with adaptation?

How are you proposing to do that?

Sep 01, 2017
just goes to show the need for CRISPR to modify our genes to be able to withstand space. BUt unfortunately "ethicists" are against any modification. THese are the people who are limited human progress in the name of not playing god. Who is our leader to shutdown the ethicists? We need to band together against this line of thinking in order to get off planet.

Sep 01, 2017
None of us commenting are female. Too many of us are callously willing to put women through hell. Without offering them any reason to suffer all the risks. With all the costs borne by women and all the profit to the men.

I have discussed this subject with actual women. A few young women were willing to consider the possibility of emigration.

I do not remember any of the older women, who had experienced pregnancy and borne children? Not one of them were willing to volunteer.

After all the asshats they have to put up with on this planet? A common comment was "Why would I trust any man trying to isolate and control me in such a confined habitat?"

Have any of you assisted with childbirth? Without professional aide? Perhaps with large animals such as horses or cows?

Until you experience such a bloody, shitty, screaming, (oh boy the screaming!) event? You ain't got a clue.

All those fluids flying about in an enclosed environment. Megamiles from nowhere!

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