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Longevity Briefs: Will space travel make us younger?

Posted on 10 December 2020

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Longevity briefs provides a short summary of novel research in biology, medicine, or biotechnology that caught the attention of our researchers in Oxford, due to its potential to improve our health, wellbeing, and longevity.

Why is this research important: Due to recent innovation in the space travel industry, we are now closer to the prospect of achieving interplanetary space travel than we ever have been before.

However, few studies have investigated what effect this unique expedition would have on the health of the human beings who choose to embark on it.

What did the researchers do: One of the most thorough investigations into the effect that a mission to the red planet might have on our well-being is the Mars-500 study.

This was a 520-day long experiment that saw six individuals live in a sealed chamber with conditions akin to those they might experience on their journey. The candidates simulated all aspects of the journey to Mars, eating a diet identical to that used for astronauts on the international space station, altering day and night cycles, as well as performing simulated ‘Marswalks’.

Ready for the first ‘Marswalk’! Source: The European Space Agency

Scientists primarily based at the University of California, in the US, looked at the effect this investigation had on the biological age of the participants by using DNA methylation based biological clocks. You can find out more about biological clocks here.

Key takeaway(s) from this research: The result showed that the Mars-500 mission decreased the rate of aging of the six participants, according to biological clocks. Despite the study having a very small number of participants, these findings yield interesting insights into how long-duration space travel affect our health.


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