Toronto: A US commercial cargo ship with supplies that is set to reach the International Space Station (ISS) on Friday has a new experiment to gauge the effect of ageing and related problems on astronauts, the Canadian Space Agency has announced.
Led by professor Richard Hughson from the University of Waterloo, the experiment will link changes in astronauts’ hearts and blood vessels with specific molecules in the blood to determine why astronauts experience conditions that mimic ageing-related problems and chronic diseases on earth.
The findings will help identify important indicators for chronic disease and assist with the development of early interventions for people on earth.
“We know that astronauts return from space with stiffer arteries and resistance to insulin, conditions affecting many adults as they age,” said professor Hughson.
“For the first time, we will be able to track exactly how - and why - the body’s blood vessels change, and use these findings to potentially improve quality of life and the burden of chronic disease,” he said in a university statement.
Stiff arteries increase blood pressure and the condition has been directly linked to the development of cardiovascular disease.
In space, astronauts’ bodies show ageing-like changes much faster than on Earth.
“The International Space Station provides a unique platform to study ageing-related conditions, providing insights that can be used to help understand some of the biggest health issues affecting society,” Hughson noted.
His research suggests that even though astronauts exercise every day, the actual physical demands of tasks of daily living are greatly reduced due to the lack of gravity.
“This lifestyle seems to cause changes in the vascular system and in the body’s ability to regulate blood glucose that would normally take years to develop on earth,” he pointed out.
Astronauts participating in the study will provide regular blood samples and conduct ultrasounds while resting and during exercise, before, during and up to one year after flight.
The experiment is one of four new research projects to be run aboard the ISS.