Space travel causes more sumo proteins to be produced, rapidly aging humans who spend a great deal of time in zero gravity.
Written by Lyndon Nicholas | published
Scientists are trying to solve problems related to the negative physical effects of space travel in various ways. Some have turned to experiments involving hypersomnia that seem to counteract the effect of microgravity, while others have looked into wormhole travel to mitigate the amount of time spent in space altogether. According to an article from inverseScientists from Oklahoma State University are looking at our own cellular processes to come up with a solution to the rapid aging effects of space travel.
Two people working to uncover the secrets behind anti-aging due to the effects of space travel are Dr. Rita Miller and Ph.D. Candidate Jeremy Sabo, in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at Oklahoma State University. They hope their research will “allow us to translate what we’ve learned keeping people alive in space and back on Earth into how to better circumvent the diseases that come with aging.”
The pair’s pioneering research using SUMO (small ubiquitin-like modifier) proteins led them to suspect that the proteins play a key role in how cells respond to the effects of microgravity during space travel. SUMO proteins participate in the process of SUMO attachment, which is when cells attach to SUMO proteins. In a recent experiment with yeast cells, they found that SUMOlaytion in microgravity significantly increased the amount of SUMO protein present in those cells compared to cells in normal gravity, although they weren’t sure of the effects of these elevated levels of proteins.
Sabo notes that in terms of space travel, there is a difference in biomarkers that are not SUMOylated when exposed to microgravity but admits, “But we don’t know what they do.” Cells are known to respond to physical stress and participate in cellular processes such as DNA damage repair, cell organization, cytoskeleton organization, cell division, protein turnover, and even radiation damage repair. Although scientists aren’t sure if this process has a positive or negative effect, understanding it could allow scientists to make strides in learning how to combat aging due to exposure to microgravity.
Although scientists are still not sure why, it is clear that microgravity causes decreased muscle and bone mass and increased signs of aging in astronauts who spend too much time in space. Led by Matthew McConaughey Interstellar Astronauts have been shown to be affected by space travel due to their proximity to a black hole. These studies could help astronauts travel in space for longer periods of time without dangerous levels of physical deterioration, as seen in the Tom Hanks-led space drama. Apollo 13.
Even outside of space travel, SUMO is already something those working in the research areas of cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and other diseases related to physical decline are keenly interested in. With more research and a stronger understanding of their function, this could mean breakthroughs for how we treat these diseases. Since SUMO is involved in the aging process in microgravity, a stronger understanding of its role in this process may help us understand the aging process in normal gravity and could be the key to unlocking more knowledge about ways to both combat aging while in space. Travel back home to earth.
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