Space travel could cripple astronauts with arthritis

Space travel could cripple astronauts with arthritis from a young age, research reveals.

Even short spells could be harmful because bones and joints interact differently in zero gravity.

Previous research showed that living in space leads to other changes in the human body affecting the immune system, blood pressure and the shape of a person’s eyes.

But scientists funded by NASA put mice on a Russian spaceflight for 30 days and found early signs of cartilage breakdown on their return. The findings were published in Microgravity.

In comparison, mice observed on Earth during the same period showed “no discernible cartilage degradation”, according to the team at the Henry Ford Hospital in Michigan.

This is because of the zero gravity conditions in space which result in less weight pulling down on the musculoskeletal system.

Lead author of the study Dr. Jamie Fitzgerald said: “Overall, we can say that after 30 days of microgravity, the process of cartilage-degrading began. When there’s no gravity pulling down on the cartilage, it’s not able to maintain its structure, its integrity.”

“On Earth, every time you take a step to walk, you’re loading that cartilage. In space, there’s very little of that.

He added: “Because cartilage in humans doesn’t readily repair, the return to Earth could potentially bring long-term health problems.”

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