At the request of the European Space Agency (ESA) and NASA a group of researchers have conducted a study in order to find out why astronauts have bad skin. Using lasers the researchers have discovered why astronauts have a thinners skin.
There’s no wonder that astronauts’skin is thinner since they must undergo extensive rehabilitation after a prolonged stay in space. Since the muscles no longer need to support the weight of the body against gravity they atrophy even if astronauts exercise daily in zero-G. The bones also lose about one to two percent of density per month. Besides this the blood pressure must be restored and astronauts might also experience vision problems because the fluid in the head is not pulled down and this puts pressure on the eyeballs.
The research team led by Professor Karsten Koenig from the Department of Biophotonics and Laser Technology, Faculty of Physics and Mechantronics (Saarland University, Germany) studied three astronauts: Italian Samantha Cristoforetti from ESA who spent 199 days in space, Italian Luca Parmitano who spent 166 days there and German Alexander Gerst who spent 166 days in space. The researchers scanned the skin of the astronauts before leaving and after their return. High-resolution images were used.
The scientists used femtosecond laser pulses in order to obtain signals from the skin: second harmonic generation and levels of fluorescence. These factors analyze how the skin absorbs and reflect light. This enabled researchers to study beneath the epidermis namely the dermis and the subcutaneous tissue. After the scans the researchers obtained spatial resolutions which were thousand times higher than the ones produced using ultrasonic devices. The advantage is that they can reveal valuable information without needing to take biopsies.
So far we’ve got interesting results from three astronauts. It seems that there is a strong production of collagen; so suddenly these astronauts have more collagen. It means there is some sort of anti-ageing effect, at least in the dermis – the lower part of the skin. And we found that the epidermis, in particular the part of the living cells, that this epidermis is shrinking, so the skin gets thinner.”
The same result was observed in the case of all astronauts. This study could be helpful for NASA’s mission to Mars which is planned for the 2030s. Astronautswill have to spend at least a year in space.
Image Source: karlstelterstudios.com