Astronauts in space and humans aging on Earth experience similar changes in physiology and function; in space because they live in microgravity whereas on Earth lifestyles make less than optimal use of Earth’s gravity.
When in 1960 Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin was first launched into space little was known about what to expect. Preceding Soviet animal flights indicated that human survival was probable. Both Soviet and US space programs rapidly progressed to multiple orbits around the Earth, with longer stays on Gemini VII (14 days), Salyut, and eventually Skylab (28, 54, and 84 days). Mir and the International Space Station (ISS) followed. Survival was no longer the issue. A consistent pattern of physiological changes was emerging.
This abnormal physiology that develops in healthy humans in space was soon recognized as having features of accelerated aging (Vernikos 1986; Sandler and Vernikos 1986). But how could that be? What were the mechanisms underlying these...
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