13 October 2021
Blast off for brain damage
Mankind may have to put its dreams of an intergalactic future on hold, as a new study finds that spending a long time in space may cause brain damage.
Researchers from the University of Gothenburg followed five Russian cosmonauts working on the International Space Station for a period of about five months.
Comparing blood samples that were taken prior to departure and after their return from space, it was found that the cosmonauts displayed significantly greater concentrations in three of five biomarkers for brain damage. That these changes may have a bearing on brain function is backed up by changes also observed in MRI and clinical tests showing deviations linked to their assignments in space.
Extended space exposure’s adverse effects on the human body have been known for some time, including atrophic muscles, decreased bone mass and altered bacterial flora in the gut. It seems we can now add deleterious neurological impact to the list.
“This is the first time that concrete proof of brain-cell damage has been documented in blood tests following space flights,” says co-author Henrik Zetterberg, professor of neuroscience. “This must be explored further and prevented if space travel is to become more common in the future.”
The study comes at an inconvenient time, as many of the earth’s wealthiest men attempt to solve our planet’s problems by figuring out a way to escape it.
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