Mice That Stayed In Space Suffered Liver Damage

Posted: Apr 21 2016, 5:04am CDT | by , in News | Latest Science News

 
Mice That Stayed in Space Suffered Liver Damage
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Mars missions could hit a roadblock as space affects liver.

Spaceflight has been found to have impact on the liver. A researcher at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus has found that mice flown into space on Space Shuttle Atlantis returned to Earth with early signs of liver disease.

"Prior to this study we really didn’t have much information on the impact of spaceflight on the liver," said the study’s lead author Karen Jonscher, PhD, an associate professor of anesthesiology and a physicist at CU Anschutz. "We knew that astronauts often returned with diabetes-like symptoms but they usually resolved quickly."

The mice studied spent 13.5 days aboard the space shuttle. When they returned, Jonscher and her colleagues were able to collect liver samples. They found that spaceflight appeared to activate specialized liver cells that may go on to induce scarring and cause long-term damage to the organ.

We saw the beginning of nascent liver damage in just 13.5 days,” Jonscher said. “The mice also lost lean muscle mass. We have seen this same phenomenon in humans on bedrest – muscles atrophy and proteins break down into amino acids. The question is, how does that affect your liver?”

For years scientists have studied the impact of spaceflight on human physiology but most of the research has focused on bone, muscle, brain and cardiovascular function. Yet studies suggesting that astronauts who spent time in space developed diabetes-like symptoms link microgravity with metabolism and point toward the liver, the major organ of metabolism, as a possible target of the space environment.

Whether or not the liver itself is vulnerable to damage has remained an open question. And this research may help answer that. Potential liver damage could be an issue on the planned Mars missions. Travel to Mars is going to take a very long time. The astronauts need to be able to survive the trip.

The mice spent time orbiting the Earth on the final space shuttle flight in 2011. Once they returned home, teams of scientists were allowed to share and study their internal organs.

The study appeared today in the journal PLOS ONE. Via the CU Anschutz Today.

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/2" rel="author">Luigi Lugmayr</a>
Luigi Lugmayr () is the founding chief Editor of I4U News and brings over 15 years experience in the technology field to the ever evolving and exciting world of gadgets. He started I4U News back in 2000 and evolved it into vibrant technology magazine.
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