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  • 3/16/2012

Long space missions cause eye, brain abnormalities


Researchers at the University of Texas Medical School say astronauts who spent long periods of time in space can develop brain and eye abnormalities.

The study published in the Journal of Radiology indicates that astronauts who spent more than a month in space could suffer eyesight problems.

Researchers used Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to examine 27 astronauts who spent more than 30 days of cumulative time in the weightless environment of space.

"The MRI findings revealed various combinations of abnormalities following both short and long-term cumulative exposure to microgravity also seen with idiopathic intracranial hypertension," said lead author Larry Kramer.

Results showed an expansion of the cerebral spinal fluid space surrounding the optic nerve of nine of the astronauts, flattening of the rear of the eyeball in six, a bulging of the optic nerve in four, and changes in the pituitary gland and its connection to the brain in three individuals.

"Microgravity-induced intracranial hypertension represents a hypothetical risk factor and a potential limitation to long-duration space travel," Kramer added.

There are several dangers associated with living in weightless conditions for long periods of time, thus astronauts are restricted to stay on the International Space Station (ISS) for not more than six months.

The new findings are of great importance as they might affect future plans for longer space missions such as the missions to Mars that, if ever conducted, will take over a year.

"NASA has placed this problem high on its list of human risks, has initiated a comprehensive program to study its mechanisms and implications, and will continue to closely monitor the situation," said William Tarver, the chief of flight medicine clinic at NASA's Johnson Space Center.

The NASA medical staff, however, believes the scale of the newly found abnormalities could not be worrying at this stage.

Source: presstv.com

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