Saturday, 30 May 2015

Mice in space develop thin skin

By Jonathan WebbScience reporter, BBC News

27 May 2015 

A study of three mice that spent 91 days on the International Space Station has found abnormalities in their skin.

This is a record stay for any animal in space; due to their short lifespan it equates to about seven "mouse years".

The study is one of 20 experiments looking at various parts of the mice to measure the health effects of zero-g.

Using microscopes, scientists found the "astromice" had thinner skin than mice that had stayed on the ground, as well as changes to their muscles and hair.

The findings appear in the new journal NPJ Microgravity. Researchers say they are only preliminary, because of the very small sample size of three mice. But the observations are of interest because astronauts often report skin problems after long periods in space.

"If these were experiments on Earth, it would never have been accepted for publication because we had only three mice - but this is a unique experiment," said Dr Betty Nusgens from the University of Liege in Belgium, one of the study's authors.

She said it was difficult to extrapolate the findings to humans, but noted that other research had looked at human astronauts.

Nasa and other space agencies have overseen several such studies, including one called SkinCare, which looked at changes in the skin of German astronaut Thomas Reiter during his year on board the International Space Station (ISS) in 2006-7. Another, Skin-B, is currently underway.

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