A New Study Shows That Astronauts Will Need Artificial Gravity To Prevent Vision Issues When Exploring Space

NASAPublic Domain

According to a new study, astronauts will be needing artificial gravity if they are to avoid vision problems when exploring space. We already know that when astronauts are in space for extended periods of time they suffer from a multitude of problems, which include loss of bone density, muscle atrophy, reduced organ functions, genetic changes, and circulation problems.

For this reason, as Universal-Sci reported, research has been conducted on the International Space Station (ISS) to learn more about the changes that happen to the bodies of these astronauts as they spend time in space, so that scientists can learn how best to address these problems, with researchers from NASA and JAXA showing that artificial gravity will be a necessity for future and extended periods of space exploration.

Eyesight is one thing in particular that can really be hampered by space travel, the direct result of astronauts having far less oxygen than they would on Earth, and of course less circulation, all of which greatly affects ocular tissue.

It has been found that 30 percent of astronauts who spend just two weeks in space suffer from vision problems, and that number jumps to a staggering 60 percent for astronauts who spend great amounts of time in space, such as those on the ISS.

Professor Michael Delp, who is the co-author of the new study on artificial gravity in space, and also the Dean of the College of Human Sciences at Florida State University, explained that while some astronauts may fully recover from the effects of space when it comes to their eyesight, many may not, and this is a major issue for NASA and other space agencies who send astronauts out in space.

“The problem is the longer the astronauts are in space, the more likely they are to experience visual impairment. Some astronauts will recover from vision changes, but some don’t. So this is a high priority for NASA and space agencies worldwide. With this application of artificial gravity, we found it didn’t totally prevent changes to the eye, but we didn’t see the worst outcomes.”

To learn whether artificial gravity could help prevent eyesight issues, Professor Delp joined forces with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and studied the ocular tissues of mice that had been placed on the ISS for at least 35 days. The mice were divided into two groups, with one of these subjected to ambient microgravity conditions and the second living with artificial gravity that was similar to the gravity found on Earth.

Scientists learned that the first group of mice that didn’t have the artificial gravity had major damage to the blood vessels in their eyes.

“When we’re on Earth, gravity pulls fluid down toward our feet. When you lose gravity, the fluid shifts toward the head. This fluid shift affects the vascular system throughout the body, and now we know it also affects the blood vessels in the eye,” as Delp noted of the study.

The mice that were in the second grouping, and who had the artificial gravity, did not suffer quite as much harm to their eyes as the first group of mice, demonstrating that artificial gravity will be very necessary going forward with space exploration.

The new study showing that artificial gravity will help to prevent issues with eyesight in astronauts spending long periods of time in space has been published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences.