While space tourism is one of the new industries that grew up amid pandemic and lockdowns, and billionaires races on who's first to put civilians out of the Earth's gravity. A new study revealed that space travel can cause lower red blood cell counts -- known as space anaemia.

"Space anaemia" is something scientists have known since the very first missions returned to Earth - but exactly why it happens has been a mystery.

A latest study by University of Ottawa, studied 14 astronauts says --- 3 million red blood cells (RBCs) are destroyed per second in space, compared to 2  million on terra firma (dry land or solid ground). "Fortunately, the body can compensate. If it didn't, astronauts would become very ill in space."

The study published in Nature Medicine, investigated astronauts including Britain's Tim Peake - on six-month stays at the International Space Station (ISS). The study findings suggest that the destruction of RBCs, termed hemolysis, is a primary effect of microgravity in space flight and support the hypothesis that the anemia associated with space flight is a hemolytic condition that should be considered in the screening and monitoring of both astronauts and space tourists.

"As humankind plans extraterrestrial travel, understanding the health implications of living in space will be critical to planning safe journeys", said that study findings.

Earlier, Canadian researchers say that 50% more red blood cells are destroyed in space and this continues for however long the mission lasts. 

Dr Guy Trudel of the University of Ottawa, who led this study of funded by the Canadian Space Agency, said "If you are on your way to Mars and ... you can’t keep up...with the need to produce all those extra red blood cells, “you could be in serious trouble"

A year after returning to Earth, the astronauts’ red blood cells had not completely returned to pre-flight levels, Dr Trudel's team reported on Friday in Nature Medicine.

A total of 14 astronauts were studied (11 men and 3 women; 45 ± 7 years) between 2015 and 2020. The astronauts flew ISS missions of 167 ± 31 days duration. Each astronaut collected alveolar and ambient air samples as well as blood samples according to a prespecified schedule. The space samples were downmassed using automated reentry vehicles.


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