Spending a long time in space appears to cause brain damage. This is shown by a study of five Russian cosmonauts who had stayed on the International Space Station (ISS). Researchers at the University of Gothenburg are among those now presenting the results.

The study is published in the scientific journal JAMA Neurology. Its co-authors at the University, scientists from the Institute of Neuroscience and Physiology at Sahlgrenska Academy, wrote it jointly with colleagues in Moscow and Munich.

The scientists followed five male Russian cosmonauts working on the permanently manned International Space Station (ISS), which is in orbit 400 km from Earth’s surface.

>The adverse effects on the body of long periods in space have been known for some time. The negative changes include atrophic muscles, decreasing bone mass, deteriorating vision and altered bacterial flora in the gut.

This is the first time that concrete proof of brain-cell damage has been documented in blood tests following space flights. This must be explored further and prevented if space travel is to become more common in the future. To get there, we must help one another to find out why the damage arises. Is it being weightless, changes in brain fluid, or stressors associated with launch and landing, or is it caused by something else? Here, loads of exciting experimental studies on humans can be done on Earth.
Henrik Zetterberg, professor of neuroscience and one of the study’s two senior coauthors

Zetterberg and his coauthors at the University, scientist Nicholas Ashton and Professor Kaj Blennow, are currently discussing follow-up studies with their other fellow researchers involved in the study, and also with national and international space research institutes.

If we can sort out what causes the damage, the biomarkers we’ve developed may help us find out how best to remedy the problem.
Henrik Zetterberg

 

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University of Gothenburg

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www.gu.se