Academic journal article Science and Children

Bugs Win in NASA Study

Academic journal article Science and Children

Bugs Win in NASA Study

Article excerpt

Bugs are winning out, and that's a good thing, according to NASA's Human Research Program. As part of NASA's One-Year Mission, researchers are studying how microbes living on astronauts' skin, inside their bodies, and on the International Space Station impact their health. To prepare for a journey to Mars, it is important to understand how long-duration spaceflight affects micro organisms, because changes to this complex ecosystem could be detrimental to future missions.

There are 10 times more microbial cells than human cells in and on the human body, weighing up to five pounds. Hundreds of species inhabit the body, and some have a beneficial effect on health. The absence of these microbes can be harmful. They are reintroduced into the body with fresh fruits, vegetables, and probiotics such as yogurt--food sources not readily available in space. Loss of these species can lead to altered metabolic function, and in conjunction with reduced immune response, may increase the chance of infection by microorganisms that normally do not harm their host but can when resistance is low.

The microbiome experiment examines the impact of space travel on both an individual's microbiome, which is the community of microorganisms that literally share our body space, and the human immune system. …

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