Space Vampire Destroys 50% of Astronaut's Blood Cells Still Mysterious

Scientists are trying to unravel the mystery of an extraterrestrial vampire who destroyed 50% of astronauts' red blood cells during their service on the ISS. According to this study, 3 million red blood cells of astronauts were destroyed during their stay in space. This blood loss in space is something scientists have known since humanity's first mission back to Earth. But why it happened is still a mystery. Now a small University of Ottawa study of 14 astronauts, including Britain's Tim Peake on a six-month stay on the International Space Station, has uncovered more knowledge. Using blood and breath samples taken during their mission, the researchers were able to measure red blood cell loss. These cells carry oxygen from the lungs to all parts of the body and are the key to life.

"Our study shows that upon arrival in space, more red blood cells are destroyed, and this continues throughout the astronaut mission," said Dr Guy Trudel, principal investigator and hospital physician.

When in space, because it is weightless, this is not a problem. But on returning to Earth, this means the astronauts have reduced bone mass and muscle strength, and are feeling very tired. Three million red blood cells are destroyed per second in space, compared to two million in terra firma. Fortunately, the body can compensate. Otherwise, astronauts will become very sick in space. Researchers aren't sure how long the body can continuously repair itself, especially if it's in space on a long mission. Even when the astronauts in the study came back to life by gravity, there was no quick fix, and a year later they were still found to be losing red blood cells at a higher rate. However, some of their vital functions can function normally. "If we can figure out exactly what causes this anemia, then there is potential to treat or prevent it, for both astronauts and patients here on Earth," said Dr. Trudel.

The findings of the Marrow study, published in Nature Medicine, may mean people taking part in space missions to distant planets need to adjust their diet to produce more iron, as well as eat more calories for energy. Screening astronauts and space travelers for blood or anemia prior to spaceflight may also be necessary, the researchers said.


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