Wed. Jan 26th, 2022

Space organizations are working to overcome several challenges that astronauts face while in space, such as reliable communications and fuel management, and a new threat has just been added to the list – anemia.

A study by researchers in Ottawa found that astronauts’ bodies destroy 54 percent more red blood cells while in space than when they are on the ground.

On Earth, our bodies create and destroy 2 million red blood cells every second, but scientists found that those in space for six months destroyed 3 million every second.

Doctors attributed it to the destruction of red blood cells, or hemolysis, as a result of fluid changes, as the bodies of astronauts were adapted to weightlessness and again, as they were adapted to gravity.

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A study by researchers in Ottawa found that astronauts' bodies destroy 54 percent more red blood cells while in space than when they were on Earth.

A study by researchers in Ottawa found that astronauts’ bodies destroy 54 percent more red blood cells while in space than when they were on Earth.

In fact, anemia is ‘a primary effect of going to space’, said Dr. Guy Trudel of the University of Ottawa, who led a study of 14 astronauts funded by the Canadian Space Agency. ‘As long as you’re in space, you’re destroying more blood cells’ than you do.’

But just as our bodies generate red blood cells to compensate for those that destroy while on Earth, so do the bodies of astronauts.

But, Trudel asked, how long can the body constantly produce 50 percent more red blood cells?

A round trip to Mars would take about two years, NASA estimated.

“If you’re on your way to Mars and … you can not keep up” with the need to produce all those extra red blood cells, “you could be in serious trouble,” Trudel said.

Doctors attributed it to the destruction of red blood cells, or hemolysis, as a result of fluid changes, as the bodies of astronauts were adapted to weightlessness and again, as they were adapted to gravity.  Tim Peake had his blood taken aboard the International Space Station for the investigation

Doctors attributed it to the destruction of red blood cells, or hemolysis, as a result of fluid changes, as the bodies of astronauts were adapted to weightlessness and again, as they were adapted to gravity. Tim Peake had his blood taken aboard the International Space Station for the investigation

Having fewer red blood cells in space is not a problem when your body is weightless, he added. But after landing on Earth, and potentially on other planets, anemia can affect astronauts’ energy, endurance and strength.

A year after returning to Earth, the astronauts’ red blood cells had not fully returned to pre-flight levels, his team reported Friday in Nature Medicine.

The new results mimic what he sees in his patients, he said, suggesting that what happens in space can also happen in immobile patients.

“A solution to one could also apply to the other,” he said.

Sulekha Anand, who researches human physiology at San Jose State University and was not involved in the study, agreed.

On Earth, our bodies create and destroy 2 million red blood cells every second, but scientists found that those in space for six months destroyed 3 million every second.  Experts question how long the body can constantly produce 50 percent more red blood cells.  The picture shows David Saint-Jacques getting his blood taken aboard the International Space Station

On Earth, our bodies create and destroy 2 million red blood cells every second, but scientists found that those in space for six months destroyed 3 million every second. Experts question how long the body can constantly produce 50 percent more red blood cells. The picture shows David Saint-Jacques getting his blood taken aboard the International Space Station

“The discovery has implications for understanding the physiological consequences of spaceflight and anemia in patients on Earth,” she said.

A separate study from March 2021 revealed long spaceflights could shrink the heart in what could be a worrying finding for the next generation of astronauts.

Even a long-term program of low-intensity exercise in space is not enough to counteract the effects of prolonged weightlessness on the heart, according to researchers at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.

Both men lost mass in their left ventricle – one of the two large chambers at the bottom of the heart – during their campaigns despite significant amounts of exercise, the researchers found.

Micro-gravity in space means that the heart does not have to work as hard to pump blood around the body, causing atrophy – a reduction in tissue.

It poses a serious problem for astronauts during prolonged spaceflight, as it reduces bone density, increases the risk of bone fractures and breaks down muscles.

Head of the study Professor Benjamin D. Levine at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center said in a statement: ‘The heart is remarkably plastic and particularly sensitive to gravity or its absence.

” Both the influence of gravity as well as the adaptive response to exercise play a role, and we were surprised that even extremely long periods of low-intensity exercise did not prevent the heart muscle from shrinking. ‘

HOW DOES SPACE RADIATION AFFECT THE HEALTH OF ASTRONAUTS?

Astronauts traveling to Mars are likely to be bombarded with 700 times the levels of radiation experienced on Earth.

Even on the International Space Station, astronauts are exposed to 200 times more radiation as a result of their work than an airline pilot or a radiology nurse would experience.

As a result, NASA constantly monitors local space weather information.

If an eruption of space radiation is detected, mission control in Houston, Texas, can instruct astronauts to interrupt space travel, move to more shielded areas of the orbiting laboratory, and even adjust the height of the station to minimize any health impacts.

Solar eruption activity can cause acute radiation exposure effects – such as changes in the blood, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting – which can be recovered from, and other effects that are non-reversible and / or fatal.

Long-term cosmic radiation bombardment is a major concern.

This can increase the risk of cancer, generate cataracts and cause sterility.

It can also cause damage to the brain, central nervous system and heart and pave the way for various degenerative diseases.

DNA changes from space radiation can even be transmitted to subsequent children.

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