Researchers already know about many of the health risks associated with human space travel. It’s understood that astronauts face an increase risk of developing kidney stones, and they are prone to bone and muscle mass loss. Now, mice are helping scientists learn about the effects weightlessness can have on skin, and it seems that the largest organ in the body- skin- could be at risk.

Six mouse astronauts aboard the International Space Station, affectionately known as “astromice,” helped provide this insight. Over the course of three months in space (the equivalent of 9-10 years for a human), the thickness of the middle layer of the skin (the dermis) was significantly reduced. Interestingly, there were also changes in the hair growth cycle. As the stem cells involved in hair growth were affected by weightlessness, it prompts more questions as to what other stem cells in the body could potentially be affected, as well.

Read more about this research here. Hopefully, a better understanding of the effects of weightlessness on the body will give doctors more insight into the best ways to prepare astronauts for space and deal with side effects more effectively.

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