NASA Astronaut Christina Koch worked outside the International Space Station with Astronaut Drew Morgan on October 7. Microgravity exposure affects genes expression in space-growing heart cells, a new study found. Christina Koch / NASA’s file photo
This sounds scary, but the changes are only temporary: researchers noted that the gene expression of heart cells grown in space has switched.
However the heart cells returned to normal just 10 days after being returned to Earth.
When stem cells were converted into heart cells on board the International Space Station, their microgravity exposure altered thousands of genes ‘ expression.
“Our research is novel because it is the first to use human-induced pluripotent stem cells to study the effects of spaceflight on human heart function,” said Dr. Joseph Wu, senior study author at Stanford University School of Medicine, California.
“Microgravity is an environment that is not well understood in terms of its overall effect on the human body, and studies such as this could help shed light on how the body’s cells behave in space, especially as the world embarks on more and longer space missions such as going to the moon and Mars,” Wu clarified.
Past studies have shown that spaceflight causes modifications in heart function, including lower heart rate, lower arterial pressure, and increased cardiac production, but very little is understood about how microgravity affects the cellular level of human heart function.
“We’re surprised about how quickly human heart muscle cells are able to adapt to the environment in which they are placed, including microgravity,” Wu added. The research was published in the Stem Cell Reports journal on November 7.
“These studies may provide insight into cellular mechanisms that could benefit astronaut health during long-duration spaceflight, or potentially lay the foundation for new insights into improving heart health on Earth,” Wu said that in a news release.
Further scrutinies with various types of heart tissue were planned by the researchers.
“We also plan to test various heart cell treatments to determine if we can prevent some of the changes the heart cells undergo during spaceflight,” Wu stated.


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