CU Anschutz Study: Liver Damage Among Space Mice Raises Concerns For Humans

April 20, 2016

A study by a University of Colorado Anschutz researcher is raising concerns about impact of space travel on health. 

Dr. Karen Jonscher led a team that found mice that flew in an experiment aboard the space shuttle came back to Earth with early signs of liver disease. 

In 2011, six mice flew on Atlantis, on the final space shuttle mission, for about two weeks. Researchers compared the livers of those mice with mice kept on Earth in identical conditions.

They believe space travel activated specialized liver cells that may go on to trigger scarring and long-term damage to the organ.

Jonscher wonders about the impact of long-term space flight on humans.

“What would it do to our livers?" she said. "What would it do to be exposed for a long time to lack of gravity when we’ve evolved to be in a gravitational system?” 

Jonsher said it’s possible humans might adjust over time or could take antioxidants or a dietary supplement to help them adjust.

She says more research is needed. The study appears in the journal PLOS ONE.