Mitochondrial Changes Key to Health Problems in Space

From NASA Ames

Nov. 25, 2020

Living in space isn’t easy. There are notable impacts on the biology of living things in the harsh environment of space. A team of scientists has now identified a possible underlying driver of these impacts: the powerhouse of the cell, called mitochondria, experiences changes in activity during spaceflight.

Recently published in the journal Cell, these results used data collected over decades of experimental research on the International Space Station, including samples from 59 astronautsStudies such as these are critical to understanding the effects of low gravity, radiation, confined spaces, and more as NASA sends astronauts deep into space for extended missions to the Moon, Mars, and beyond.

Scientist, to the right, sitting at a lab desk pipetting into a set of samples. There's a large machine to the left.Scientist, to the right, sitting at a lab desk pipetting into a set of samples. There's a large machine to the left.Scientist, to the right, sitting at a lab desk pipetting into a set of samples. There's a large machine to the left.
Valery Boyko, lead of NASA GeneLab’s Sample Processing Lab, is setting up automated liquid handling instrument to quantify the amount of sequencing material in a sample.Credits: NASA/Dominic Hart

“We’ve found a universal mechanism that explains the kinds of changes we see to the body in space, and in a place we didn’t expect,” said Afshin Beheshti the lead author on the paper and a researcher with KBR, which provides contract support to NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley. “Everything gets thrown out of whack and it all starts with the mitochondria.”

The research also made use of a comprehensive database of animal studies collected on the GeneLab platform at Ames, as well as the NASA twin study comparing identical twins Mark and Scott Kelly over the course of a year. The GeneLab platform is the first of its kind to capture large amounts of space biology “omics” data that can be used to characterize and quantify biological molecules – such as DNA, RNA, and proteins – and their systematic effects on the structures and functions of organisms. GeneLab’s Analysis Working Group drew in scientists from all over the world to collaborate on the study and get the most out of the data housed on the open-source platform.

Mitochondria are tiny structures within cells that produce energy for the basic units of biology that make up our bodies. When that energy production breaks down, many of the body’s key organs and its immune system can be put in jeopardy. This new research indicates this breakdown in activity of mitochondria might contribute to health or performance challenges faced by humans in space.

The first clue about the connection between mitochondria and spaceflight came from research using rodents.

“When we started comparing the tissues from mice flown on separate space missions, we noticed that mitochondrial dysfunction kept popping up,” said Beheshti. “Whether we were looking at problems in the eyes or in the liver, the same pathways related to mitochondria were the source of the problem.”

NASA’s data on humans backed this hypothesis up. The changes identified in astronaut Scott Kelly’s immune system during his year in space starting in 2015 may be explained by the changes observed in the activity of his mitochondria as well. Blood and urine samples from dozens of other astronauts showed further evidence that, in various types of cells, being in space led to altered mitochondrial activity.

“This is a big step toward figuring out how our bodies can live healthily off-world,” said Beheshti. “And the good news is, this is a problem we can already start to tackle. We can look at countermeasures and drugs we already use to deal with mitochondrial disorders on Earth to see how they might work in space, to start.”

From issues as wide-ranging as disrupted circadian rhythms to cardiovascular alterations, scientists can now turn to this small but essential structure in cells as a place to continue research and look for solutions. Mitochondria are indeed the powerhouse of the cell, and may also power the future of space biology research – pointing the way toward discoveries that will help astronauts live safely in orbit and beyond.

For news media:

Members of the news media interested in covering this topic should reach out to the NASA Ames newsroom.

Author: Frank Tavares, NASA’s Ames Research Center

Top image: Astronaut Scott Kelly is working with the Microgravity Sciences Glovebox during a Rodent Research session with Bone Densitometer. Credit: NASA
Last Updated: Nov. 30, 2020
Editor: Frank Tavares

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December 3, 2020 at 12:13AM

The Speech every media outlet should play in full: Watch Trump — solemn, careful, determined

This is a historic “Let’s Do This” moment. For 45 minutes Trump calmly and methodically presents the evidence of massive corruption and fraud. Anyone who doesn’t see this and relies on the Legacy and Tech Giant filtered propaganda will be blindsided by what’s unfolding in the United States.

As Donald Trump says: “This may be the most important speech I’ve ever made….”

As President, I have no higher duty than to defend the laws and the Constitution of the United States. That is why I am determined to protect our election system, which is now under coordinated assault and siege.

We were warned we should not declare a premature victory in this election — it would take weeks…

My opponent was told to stay away — to not campaign — “we’ve got it”, and perhaps they did.

It’s about ensuring Americans can have faith in this election and all future elections.

If we are right about the fraud Joe Biden can’t be President.

This is a national disgrace.

“The single greatest achievement in your Presidency will be exactly what you are doing now”

Voter […]

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December 2, 2020 at 09:32PM

New Paleoclimatology Finding Shows Earth’s Climate Was Typically Warmer than Today

Guest essay by H. Sterling Burnett, originally published on

Archaeologists have published a new paper in The HoloceneDOI: 10.1177/0959683620972775 that confirms what previous research has shown: numerous periods during recent history have been as warm as or warmer than the present.

The press release was covered in The New Scientist, “Climate change has revealed a huge haul of ancient arrows in Norway,”  and discusses the findings of researchers from the Universities of Cambridge, Oslo, and Bergen. The researchers discovered a “treasure trove” of arrows, arrowheads, clothing, and other artifacts, recently uncovered by a receding ice in a mountainous region of southern Norway. The oldest arrows and artifacts date from around 4100 BC. The youngest artifacts date from approximately AD 1300, at the end of the Medieval Warm Period. Because present temperatures are only now exposing some of the artifacts were deposited when no ice covered the ground, temperatures were clearly warmer during the many periods when artifacts were deposited.

Along with the arrows and other artifacts, the researchers found nearly 300 specimens of reindeer antler and bone exposed by receding ice. Because reindeer presently frequent the area, the archaeologists say they are confident the area has served as an important hunting ground, off and on, for millennia.

The fact that artifacts were found from several different periods separated by hundreds and thousands of years in time indicates the ice and snow in the region has expanded and receded several times over the current interglacial period.

Elsewhere in Norway, scientists also recently uncovered what they have labeled a “Viking highway,” a route the ancient peoples inhabiting the region used to travel regularly. The route had for approximately 2,000 years been covered by snow and ice that expanded as the region’s climate shifted from a relatively warm period, comparable to present temperatures, to a colder period during which “permanent” thick snow and ice cover formed. This erected the equivalent of a “highway closed” sign.

More evidence for relative warm periods in recent history has recently been found half a world away in frozen Antarctica, where scientists report they have discovered perfectly preserved, 800-year-old penguin remains exposed by a patch of melting ice along the Antarctic coast.

In an article published in the peer-reviewed journal Geology, scientists reported discovering what appeared to be the fresh remains of Adelie penguins in a region currently uninhabitable by penguins. Carbon dating showed the penguin remains were approximately 800 years old, implying the remains had only recently been exposed by thawing ice. Further analysis of the site showed penguins colonized and abandoned the site multiple times between 800 and 5,000 years ago.

Penguins are currently unable to inhabit the area where the frozen corpse was found because “fast ice” (ice that extends from the Antarctic shore many miles out into the ocean) prevents them from accessing the ocean for food. During the Medieval Warm Period, the absence of fast ice allowed penguins to colonize and nest in the area for hundreds of years.

Numerous other frozen and near-perfectly preserved human and animal corpses have been discovered in Arctic and glacial alpine regions in recent decades as the Earth has modestly warmed.

The most famous of these, perhaps, is the frozen human mummy scientists call Otzi, which hikers discovered in 1991 in a then-recently thawed area of the northern Italian Alps. Analysis of the mummy’s clothing, body, stomach contents, and the plants found frozen around it indicate Otzi died, was nearly flash-frozen in place, and then covered over by and ice- and snow-driven glacial expansion more than 5,300 years ago. This fact suggests the Earth was just as warm, and the snow and ice extent just as low, 5,300 years ago as it is today.

Also, in the December 3, 2019 edition of Geophysical Research Letters, scientists examining materials from three lakes on the Svalbard archipelago jutting into the Arctic Ocean found evidence that from 11,700 through 8,200 years BP, temperatures in the region often exceeded both currently recorded temperatures and those projected by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to occur even under its worst-case scenarios. Such ancient warmth existed for hundreds of years at a time.

According to Svalbard evidence, peak warmth occurred approximately 10,000 years before the present, at which time temperatures in the region were estimated to be 7 degrees Celsius warmer than today.

Proxy data from tree rings, shell middens, and pollen trapped in peat, fossilized remains, and oral and written historical records all show not only that global temperatures have been as warm as or warmer than today, but also that all of these warm periods have been a boon for life, including the expansion of human communities. Indeed, history shows these warmer periods contributed to the rise of agricultural societies, human civilizations with large permanent settlements (which have recently morphed into megalopolises), and modern nation-states.

[Photo courtesy of Wikimedia commons,

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December 2, 2020 at 08:26PM

Dinosaur ‘Mummy’ Unveiled With Skin And Guts Intact – Video

Discovered by miners in Alberta, Canada, it’s a ‘mummy’ of a nodosaur, a type of plant-eating armored dinosaur. And it is huge.

The animal has two 20-inch-long spikes on its shoulders, and, in life, it was 18 feet long and nearly 3,000 pounds.

Scientists call it perhaps the best-preserved fossil of its kind ever unearthed because its bones remain covered by intact skin and armor some 110 million years after the creature’s death.

The Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology in Drumheller, Alberta, Canada recently unveiled the dinosaur, which is so well-preserved that many are calling it not a fossil, but an honest-to-goodness “dinosaur mummy.”

The museum’s Dinosaur Hall houses one of the world’s largest displays of dinosaur remains, and the mummified nodosaur is the crown jewel of that display.

I visited the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology, located about 4 miles northwest of Drumheller, Alberta, while conducting research for my first book, Not by Fire but by Ice.

One of the highlights of my trip – other than viewing the incredible collection of dinosaur remains – was seeing the hoodoos in Alberta’s badlands for the first time.

Hoodoos typically consist of relatively soft rock topped by harder, less easily eroded stone that protects each column from the elements. The hoodoo tops are usually larger than the pillars on which they stand. The Alberta hoodoos that I saw measured about 20 feet tall and looked like apparitions out of a Dr Seuss book

I took some photos of them, but that was so long ago that I don’t remember where they are.

Thanks to Benjamin Napier for this link
“If oil and coal are comprised of deteriorated plants and animals, how did this one avoid becoming part of the rest?” asks Benjamin.


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December 2, 2020 at 07:55PM