Spaceflight Changes Astronaut's Gut Bacteria

Posted: Feb 3 2017, 7:33am CST | by , in News | Latest Science News

 
Spaceflight Changes Astronaut's Gut Bacteria
Identical twins, Scott and Mark Kelly, are the subjects of NASA’s Twins Study. Scott (left) spent a year in space while Mark (right) stayed on Earth as a control subject. Researchers are looking at the effects of space travel on the human body. Credits: NASA
  • Transformations in Gut Microbiome of Astronauts due to Conditions of Outer Space

The transformations in the gut microbiome of astronauts during spaceflights are due to the conditions of outer space.

Researchers who analyzed the gut bacteria of astronauts Mark and Scott Kelly found changes that had occurred in the “microscopic organisms” that inhabited their digestive tracts.

This was one of almost a dozen NASA-funded research teams that wanted to know how conditions in space affected the bodies and minds of the twin astronauts. It was all being done to gauge how any future trip to Mars would be for the travelers in the spacecraft.

Mark and Scott Kelly are identical twins. They are both seasoned astronauts who have spent valuable time aboard the ISS and the Space Shuttle. They were the main subjects of the studies. The deleterious changes that occurred during spaceflight normally went away when the astronauts returned to the planet earth.

Yet it would be premature to say what these radical transformations in the human body and psyche mean when it is subjected to the harsh environment of space. The change in gut microbiota is something which is still something of a mystery.

The group of science experts will be working in tandem with other teams that are studying other twins in order to get a clearer picture of the whole scenario.

This will help improve the health status of the astronauts of the future. Also some of its spin-offs will include ways of optimizing human gut flora and fauna on earth. It is indeed a huge step that has been taken in the right direction.

Now we know a few things that had been ignored up until now. The bacteria in the human body form a sort of secondary intelligence and they dictate many things including how obese the person is all the way to whether he is prone to mental illness. The GI bugs tend to support optimum digestion too.

Among some of the prominent findings of the team were:

• A swing in the balance between Firmicutes and Bacteriodetes occurred in Scott Kelly’s gut. This underwent recalibration upon his entry back into our planet’s ambit.

• An imbalance was also seen in the gut bugs of Mark Kelly, but this upset was not as huge as that seen in his twin brother.

• Variations in viral, bacterial and fungal populations of both twins’guts were to be expected. They would have occurred even in those people who were not identical twins.

• Diversity of gut bugs did not change in Scott Kelly during spaceflight which was indeed strange.

The experiments that were carried out are of seminal importance. They will go on to pave the path for further future research on the gut microbiome in astronauts.

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/20" rel="author">Sumayah Aamir</a>
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