Mice that spent three months aboard the International Space Station returned to Earth with thinning skin and surprising changes in hair follicles, a finding that may have implications for understanding the scope of physiological changes long-duration spaceflight has on humans, as well.
"There has been anecdotal evidence of skin problems in astronauts on orbit, including slow healing of scratches, and some crew members have had nonspecific rashes," NASA's lead space station scientist Julie Robinson told Discovery News.
In general, those skin problems have been considered nuisance medical issues, though the skin may be part of broader changes in the immune system, she added.
Moonwalkers: Stunning Photos from Apollo 11
The new mouse study hints that genetic changes are involved, with researchers reporting "significant modulation of 434 genes" in the space-flown mice, compared to ground-based subjects, Betty Nusgens, with the University of Liege in Belgium, and colleagues write in this week's Microgravity, a new journal by Nature Publishing.