The human body was not born to exist in the cosmic environment, it shows right in our blood vessels.
Since humans first emerged from Earth's magnetic field, spending a long time in space, researchers have noticed that astronauts' bodies have lost a significant amount of red blood cells.

This phenomenon is named space ischemia, and no one knew the real cause behind it until recently. Some experts consider space anemia to be a short-term illness - a brief compensation for fluid changes in the body under microgravity.

However, a new study points to more severe and longer lasting consequences of this disease.

During the six-month spaceflight, the researchers found that the human body destroyed red blood cells about 54 percent faster than normal. This result was higher than the original prediction, and was verified from the breath and blood of 14 astronauts at the International Space Station (ISS).

“This is the most detailed study of red blood cell differentiation in the space environment and after returning to Earth. These findings are very surprising, previously in science it was very rare to have such data. This is the basis for many future studies,” said Guy Trudel, an epidemiologist from the University of Ottawa, Canada.

Measurements are taken through a blood test and a carbon monoxide-based breath test. Each exhaled carbon monoxide molecule is equivalent to one pigment molecule in the destroyed red blood cell. Therefore, it becomes a useful estimator for measuring red blood cell loss.

If on Earth, the astronauts created and destroyed about 2 million red blood cells every second, while in orbit, their bodies destroyed nearly 3 million red blood cells every second. .

Under microgravity, the human body loses about 10% of the fluid flowing through the blood vessels, resulting in blood pooling in the head and chest. That's why the faces of ISS astronauts are often swollen.

For years, this has been the explanation for space ischemia. Perhaps the loss of red blood cells is our body's way of making up for the lost blood. But that's not the conclusion of recent research. Instead of balancing with components in the blood, red blood cells are constantly decreasing during space flight.

Even after 120 days in the space station, when all the red blood cells in an astronaut's body have been made new, they continue to decline at the same rate. “Our study shows that when it comes to space, more red blood cells are destroyed. This phenomenon persisted for the duration of that astronaut's mission," Trudel said.

When astronauts are in space, the loss of red blood cells leads to an abnormal increase in serum iron in their blood. Because there are not enough red blood cells to circulate iron in the body, the astronauts gradually fall into anemia, ranging from mild to severe.

By the time they returned to Earth, 5 of the 13 astronauts (one astronaut had no blood drawn on landing) had reached clinically diagnosable anemia - a condition in which the body doesn't produce enough red blood cells. required for daily physiological activities.

Only 3 to 4 months later, the red blood cell count returns to normal. However, even after 1 year, the astronaut's body still destroyed 30% more red blood cells than before they went to space. Although the study did not measure red blood cell production, in fact, none of the astronauts experienced severe anemia. Although they lost a large number of red blood cells, their bodies increased production of more red blood cells in the space environment than on Earth.

If the above hypothesis is correct, the astronaut's meal needs to be adjusted. The increased production of red blood cells can put pressure on the bone marrow, leading to more energy expenditure. If astronauts are not properly protected, they can suffer damage to their hearts, lungs, bones, brains and musculoskeletal systems upon their return to Earth.

“Thankfully, having fewer red blood cells isn't a problem in zero gravity. But when landing on a planet like Earth, the moon, or another surface in space, anemia affects energy, endurance, and body strength. This could threaten the success of a space mission. The effects of anemia only become apparent when a person lands, and feels gravity again,” explains Trudel.
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