Simulated space conditions disrupt 91% of human gene expressions

Simulated space conditions disrupt 91% of human gene expressions

Simulated space conditions disrupt 91% of human gene expressions

A new study aiming to understand the impact of simulated microgravity on gene expression rhythms in humans revealed that this simulated microgravity indeed disrupts gene expression in humans.



They found that when simulated microgravity is achieved through 60 days of consistent bed rest, it impacts the processing of information in human genes that produce proteins and RNA molecules.

The study was motivated due to a surge in spaceflights with more and more astronauts undertaking expeditions to space. 

Human gene expression in space condition

“This unique study represents the largest longitudinal dataset of time series gene expression in humans,” stated lead author Simon Archer, also professor of molecular biology of sleep at the University of Surrey.

“Human gene expression varies rhythmically over the 24-hour day, and it is important to collect time series data rather than from just single time points to get a full picture of what occurs in the body when exposed to simulated microgravity,” he added. 

He additionally noted that exposure to such a stimulated environment in space raised questions about the impact of constant bed rest on our bodies as we have identified a dramatic effect on the temporal organization of human gene expression.

Another study conducted by the European Space Agency noted that when 20 men went through a 90-day protocol consisting of two weeks of baseline before 60 days of constant bed rest at a -six-degree head-down tilt angle to simulate the effects of microgravity experienced by astronauts according to a statement by the researchers. This protocol was completed with two weeks of recovery.

Disruptions affecting 91% of genes

The study conducted by the University of Surrey evaluated gene expression patterns in 24 hours at different phases of the study including baseline, bed rest, and recovery of the astronauts. 

The team discovered 91 percent of these gene expressions to be impacted by the protocol with significant disruptions to the rhythmic patterns. This further affects the biological processing of the human body from protein translation, immune response, and inflammation to muscle function.

While recovery, the aspects of the interrupted muscle function were restored, implying a partial recovery but subjects still experienced lasting consequences in protein translation. 

This indicated that simulated microgravity’s influenced gene expression continued to persist in the participants even after they returned to normal conditions. 

“Space travel was once thought to be unachievable; however, the growth of the space industry means it is now a real possibility,” expressed Senior author Derk-Jan Dijk, professor of sleep and physiology and director of the Surrey Sleep Research Centre. 

“A lot remains unknown about the impact of microgravity on the body, and it is important we know more about this before we start ‘holidaying’ in space. Building on what we have found, the second part of our study, using the same cohort of men, will investigate the impact microgravity has on sleep, circadian rhythms, and hormones of individuals.”

Source: Interesting Engineering

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Simulated space conditions disrupt 91% of human gene expressions

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