Irina Shlionskaya | Pravda.ru
Do you want to live long? Then go to space! Recently, an international group of scientists, exploring changes in the body of astronauts, found that being in a space environment prevents aging of the muscles of the body and reduces the expression of some genes. This automatically leads to a prolongation of the life cycle, the researchers said.
The idea of space “longevity” is not new. From science fiction, we know perfectly well that the time on Earth and in space flows differently. In terms of Einstein’s relativity theory, the rate of flow of time is directly related to the velocity of the object itself. Thus, if the object can reach the speed of light, the time will nearly stop.
As an illustrative example Einstein brought up the twins paradox that was later used by many science fiction writers. One twin is sent into space, the other remains on Earth. Many years later, the twin-astronaut returns to Earth where he finds his brother much older, while he is still young – because his ship was moving at the speed of light.
For now mankind cannot stay in space long enough to use the effect of “slow” time at the level where it would be noticeable. Let’s look at it at a different angle. Under the conditions of space flights, the muscle mass is reduced. This is a response to environmental conditions, i.e., getting into weightlessness. Now it turns out that in outer space the amount of toxic proteins that tend to accumulate in aging muscles diminishes.
In addition, the scientists found a group of genes whose expression during space flight decreases. Earlier laboratory experiments conducted on Earth with worms Caenorhabditis elegans showed that the decreased expression of the same genes prolongs the worms’ life.
To date, Caenorhabditis elegans is the first multi-cellular organism whose genome was completely decoded. As it turned out, many of its genes have counterparts in humans, such as those that are responsible for muscle function.
“We have identified seven genes, inactivation of which extends life in laboratory conditions,” said one of the authors of the study, an expert on muscle metabolism, Dr. Nathaniel Szewczyk. “We still do not know exactly how these genes work. Apparently, they affect the perception of the environment and the appropriate adaptation of the organism. For example, one gene controls the production of insulin-related metabolism and longevity. ”
These results are encouraging. If everything happens according to a similar scheme in humans, we can live up to 400 years, the director of the Center for Research on aging at the University of Louisiana, Professor Michal Yazvinski believes. Caleb Finch gives a more optimistic forecast – 1300 years.
Consequently, as a result of adaptation to space conditions living organisms can live longer, at least hypothetically. Finally, it may become clear after the study of Caenorhabditis elegans.
It was found that these worms are able to live and reproduce in space for about six months. Thus, the cost of sending them on an experimental flight, for example, to Mars, may be relatively low. In the process, the scientists will be able to study the influence of space environment on living organisms.
Of course, worms differ significantly from humans. Therefore, even if the experiment succeeds, it will be too early to draw conclusions as a much more thorough study is needed. The space environment is too dangerous for humans. Before conducting experiments to extend life in space, first technology that will allow astronauts to make trips to Mars without risk to health must be improved.