A new study has shown that astronauts’ blood does experience DNA mutations due to spaceflight. The study, published in Communications Biology in August, looked at the blood taken from 14 astronauts in NASA’s space shuttle program. Researchers found several DNA mutations in stem-cell blood that could be linked to the space shuttle program.
Astronauts may be at higher risk of DNA mutations
The mutations, the researchers say, are worrying but still below the overall threshold of concern. Researchers concluded that astronauts need to be tested for possible DNA mutations. These DNA mutations discovered in spaceflight astronauts are more concerning than anyone thought.
This isn’t the first time that the safety of spaceflight has been called into question, either. Spaceflight was previously feared to put astronauts in danger of developing cancer. A 2019 study showed that wasn’t the case, though concerns around the health risks of spaceflight have continued to be raised.
With plans for deep space and commercial spaceflights coming to fruition, scientists are looking at these health risks more closely. The DNA mutations discovered in astronauts is very alarming and intriguing. The researchers looked at blood taken from the astronauts almost 20 years ago. These astronauts flew missions between 1998 and 2001.
They then compared the samples to the astronaut’s current blood spectrum, and they started finding the mutations in the DNA. Altogether they discovered 34 nonsynonymous mutations in 17 CH-driver genes. These small clones found in blood require further investigation and inspection.
Finding these DNA mutations in the astronaut’s blood is concerning, yes. We don’t yet know what caused these mutations. Was it spaceflight itself, or could the astronauts have been exposed to something that isn’t necessarily a concern anymore? All of this will need to be discovered to properly determine the risk of these mutations in a more widespread fashion.
If we are able to identify the cause of these mutations, we may be able to combat them. There are other concerns we need to address about spaceflight health, too, like the effect that lack of gravity has on the human bone structure.
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