New study shows that women are probably more resilient to space flights than men

By Jurassic JennJun 18, 2024 14:39 PMScience
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How men and women experience space flights
How men and women experience space flights. Source: www.abc.net.au

A recent US study indicates that women might possess a greater resilience than men when it comes to enduring the challenges of space travel. Additionally, women tend to recover more quickly upon returning to Earth. While the findings are based on a limited number of female astronauts, they have significant implications for astronaut recovery programs and crew selection for future space missions. This article is prepared by SSP.

The study, featured in Nature Communications, examined the impact of spaceflight on the human immune system. Led by Professor Christopher Mason of Weill Cornell Medicine, the research team analyzed the immune system responses of two men and two women who participated in the SpaceX Inspiration4 mission in 2021. Their findings were then compared to data obtained from 64 other astronauts.

The results revealed that gene activity in men was more disrupted than in women during spaceflight, and it took men longer for their gene activity to return to normal upon reentry to Earth. The study specifically highlighted the potential impact on fibrinogen, a protein essential for blood clotting.

"Males appear to be more affected by spaceflight for almost all cell types and metrics," the scientists noted in their paper. They called for further studies to confirm these preliminary trends, emphasizing the potential influence on recovery times and crew selection for high-altitude, lunar, and deep space missions.

While the reasons behind women's resilience to spaceflight remain uncertain, Prof. Mason speculated that their physiological ability to cope with pregnancy may play a role. Women who can undergo significant physiological and fluid dynamic changes during pregnancy might also be able to withstand the stress of space travel.

The featured paper is one of many published on Tuesday that examine samples collected from the SpaceX Inspiration4 mission crew and other astronauts who spent extended periods on the International Space Station. These studies contribute to the development of a space biology database that aims to minimize health risks for future astronauts on missions to the moon, lunar orbit, and potentially Mars.

However, a separate study published in Nature Communications raises concerns about the safety of long-duration deep space missions. Researchers at University College London exposed mice to simulated galactic cosmic rays (GCRs), and the results indicate that the potential doses of radiation encountered by humans on a round-trip to Mars could lead to permanent kidney damage. Without adequate protection from these rays, astronauts may require dialysis upon their return.

Dr. Keith Siew, part of the research team at UCL, explained that radiation significantly impacts the kidneys and that the resulting damage might not manifest until months later. The study highlighted the detrimental effects of GCRs on mitochondria, the cellular powerhouses, potentially contributing to kidney failure.

Considering the energetic nature of GCRs, the issue of shielding posed another challenge, as it could generate secondary radiation that harms astronauts further. The study's senior author, Professor Stephen Walsh, expressed concern, emphasizing the difficulty in addressing this issue effectively.

The continuous exploration and research into such topics will be crucial for enabling safe and sustainable human space travel in the future.

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