Study Finds Space Travel May Cause Brain Damage

A new study has found that spending too much time in space may cause brain damage. The study involved following a group of Russian cosmonauts who stayed on the International Space Station (“ISS”), which is orbiting 400 km from the planet’s surface. The study was conducted by researchers at the University of Gothenburg. Its findings were published in the “JAMA Neurology” scientific journal.

Previous research has found that negative changes to the human body caused by spending long periods of time in space include altered bacterial flora in the gut, deteriorating vision, reduced bone mass and atrophic muscles.

For their study, the researchers collected blood samples from the five cosmonauts 20 days before they departed to the permanently manned ISS, noting their mean age was 49. The cosmonauts stayed in space for about five and a half months, which translates to about 165 days, before they came back. After their return, the researchers collected blood samples on three separate occasions, specifically one day, one week and three weeks after the cosmonauts had come back to earth.

Researchers then analyzed for various biomarkers of brain damage, which include 2 amyloid beta, total tau, glial fibrillary acidic protein and neurofilament light proteins. They found that the concentrations of amyloid beta protein Aβ40, the glial fibrillary acidic protein and the neurofilament light protein were considerably high in all participants.

One of the study’s senior co-authors, Professor Henrik Zetterberg, who has specialized in neuroscience, stated that this was the first time that actual proof of brain-cell damage had been recorded in blood tests after space travel, adding that it was important that more research be conducted, especially if space travel was to become more common moving forward. He further opined that discovering the cause of the damage, be it stressors linked to landing and launching or changes in brain fluid, could be done through experimental studies on humans.

The professor and his co-authors are now focused on conducting follow-up studies with international and national space research institutes as well as other researchers involved in the study. Zetterberg notes that the biomarkers may be helpful in finding out how the issue can be remedied, once they find out what causes the damage.

The report was written by Professor Kaj Blennow, the study’s other senior co-author, along with scientist Nicholas Ashton. Researchers from the Institute of Neuroscience and Physiology at Sahlgrenska Academy also contributed to the report.

The brain diagnostics as well as neurological oncology segments have also made major strides forward as innovative products keep coming to market from cutting-edge entities such as CNS Pharmaceuticals Inc. (NASDAQ: CNSP). As a result, better treatments for conditions afflicting the brain, such as cancers, are being developed and could soon be available to patients.

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