Microgravity Accelerates Biological Aging
November 1, 2013

Space Travel, Microgravity Have An Effect On Aging And Cardiovascular Disease

April Flowers for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online

In the race to push humanity farther and farther into outer space for longer periods of time, the real losers might just be the astronauts themselves.

A new study, conducted on the International Space Station (ISS), describe experiments involving cells that line the inner surfaces of blood vessels, called endothelial cells. The findings, published in The FASEB Journal, reveal that microgravity accelerates cardiovascular disease and biological cell aging.

"Understanding the cellular and molecular events of senescence might help in finding preventive measures that are useful to improve the quality of life of millions of people," said Silvia Bradamante, a researcher involved in the work from the CNR-ISTM, Institute of Molecular Science and Technologies in Milan, Italy. "Our study further supports the role of oxidative stress in accelerating aging and disease."

Bradamante and his team examined endothelial cells in actual microgravity. They conducted deep gene expression and protein analysis on the cells, and compared space-flown endothelial cells to cells cultured under normal gravity to find differences in gene expression and/or in the profile of secreted proteins. More than 1,000 genes showed differential expression in space-flown cells, which also secreted high amounts of pro-inflammatory cytokines. These changes induced significant oxidative stress, which caused inflammation among endothelial cells. This inflammation led to atherosclerosis and cell senescence (biological aging).

"As we plan to send people deeper into space than ever before, and for longer flights, we've got to make sure that they remain in best health possible," said Gerald Weissmann, M.D., Editor-in-Chief of The FASEB Journal. "We've evolved to rely on gravity to regulate our biology, and without it, our tissues become confused. Worst of all: they age faster!"