Study: Gravity Can Affect Genes

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A new study by the University of Exeter and the NASA GeneLab showed how low gravity affects the genes of a living being. Previous research has shown that microgravity can change the brain’s volume and shape. Other studies have found that exposure to low-gravity environments can affect muscles, heart cells, and intestines. The current research looked at the various changes brought about by low gravity at a genetic level. To conduct the study, scientists brought a species of worm aboard the International Space Station (ISS) and exposed it to low gravity for several weeks. To make the genetic effects of microgravity more noticeable, another set of worms of the same species were left on Earth and placed inside a centrifuge, a machine that rapidly spins. The scientists used this device to mimic a high-gravity environment. The scientists also analyzed the genetic makeup of the worms before and after the experiment. After their analysis, the scientists discovered that close to 1,000 genes of the worms on the ISS had subtly changed. Additionally, certain genes, like those found in neurons, had more pronounced changes. Genes important in metabolism were also affected by changes in gravity. According to the researchers, the study results could help scientists explain why living beings experience a decline in health when in space. Astronauts commonly suffer from eyesight and blood flow problems, among other issues, during missions in space. The study could also aid space agencies like NASA in developing treatments and strategies that can offset the harmful effects of microgravity on astronauts during future space missions.

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