According to the research team, changes in cell shape can change different gene sequences that activate biochemical pathways - altering cell functions such as differentiation as cells divide. But there could be drugs created to counteract these effects, if they are found to be detrimental in the first place.
"It is well known that some natural compounds, like melatonin, are able to act as a cytoskeleton modulator," said Palombo. "In particular, in our experimental setup, we aimed to investigate if melatonin could counteract microgravity effects on cytoskeleton, in order to hypothesize its potential pharmacological use for astronauts."
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Astronauts are already taking drugs these days to counteract bone loss, according to the research team. In addition to Vitamin D, calcium and lots of exercise (roughly two hours a day including setup time), they are encouraged to take bisphosphonate, a therapeutic agent that has been used to treat osteoporosis patients.