The third millennium could be the age of space conquest. Humanity is just about to begin in its own solar system, with the Moon, Mars and space colonies. But before we can open up the universe, we still have to overcome a few hurdles, some of which we hadn’t imagined. One problem: astronauts lose their red blood cells in space – or rather: they are destroyed by their own bodies. Science is puzzled. Red blood cells are very important for maintaining energy levels and healing wounds, among other things.
Space causes human blood to self-destruct. In space, the human body destroys its own red blood cells. The strange phenomenon is called space anemia. According to the latest research results, the astronauts are still plagued by it after their return.
According to a study in Nature Medicine, the human body destroys red blood cells faster in space than on Earth. The process is puzzling, the new study provides some advances in knowledge. Researchers worked with 14 astronauts for six months. All of them were on missions in the International Space Station. For the study, the astronauts breathed into canisters at regular intervals, which they then returned to Earth. Researchers then examined the astronauts’ breath for carbon monoxide, which is produced whenever a red blood cell in the body is destroyed.
Result: The astronauts destroyed about three million red blood cells per second. That’s 54 percent more than the average rate on Earth. Five of the 13 astronauts were still suffering from anemia on Earth. A year later, red blood cell destruction was still higher than in people who hadn’t been in space.
According to the study, the longer a person stays in space, the longer they are anemic. The researchers suspect that the bone marrow or the spleen could be to blame. Further research should start here. The results could help space agencies decide how long missions should last and how injuries or illnesses in space should be treated.