A new study says staying in space for a long time can cause brain damage!

According to a new study, staying in space for a long time can cause brain damage. Being in space has adverse effects on the body, but the impact on the brain is less studied. Five Russian cosmonauts were examined in the recent study. They boarded the ISS for about five and half months. Elevated levels of proteins were found in the blood that serves as biomarkers of brain damage. In Jama Technology, the study was detailed on October 11. The study was small, and the effects on the cosmonauts’ brains were not prominent. Its co-authors are from universities, scientists from the Institute of Neuroscience and Physiology at Sahlgrenska Academy. They wrote it jointly with colleagues in Munich and Moscow. The study could still lead to further examination of the effect of being in space on the brain.

From five male Russian cosmonauts, 20 days before they left for the ISS, the researchers took blood samples to establish a baseline, then collected additional samples one day, one week, and three weeks after they returned. The adverse effects on the body of long periods in space include altered gut bacteria flora, deteriorating vision, decreasing bone mass, and changes including atrophic muscles. The blood for five different biomarkers was analyzed associated with brain damage on Earth.


Two types of amyloid-beta proteins were looked at by the researchers. In people with Alzheimer’s disease, these build up and form clumps in the brains. It’s a sticky protein and essential to get rid of it from the brain tissue. Tau protein the researchers looked at, and this protein can also accumulate in neurodegenerative diseases and form tangles. The neurofilament light chain the researchers also measured is a protein that increases when parts of the brain axons are injured and glial fibrillary acidic protein, which helps form brain cells called astrocytes. These star-shaped cells clear brains waste and protect the brain from harmful substances. An increase in GFAP essentially means that the cell is working harder to clear out waste.

The researchers had found that these were significantly higher after the cosmonauts returned from space than before they left. After the flight, the level of these proteins increased one day and one week, but by three weeks post-flight started to decrease. They did not go down to preflight levels. Initially, the total level of tau protein increased and then reduced to below the initial level.

The study did not find out what caused the increase in these proteins. The researchers believe it could have something to do with how the brain elimination system is affected by microgravity. There could be abnormal impacts that microgravity has on fluids in the brain. The researchers also believe that some of their results could reflect a brain injury as a result of these effects. Though the study examined those, who had been in space for an extended period, a shorter stay in space would also impact the brain. The research is likely to be particularly important as humans begin to spend more time in space.





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