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Vision & Microgravity…Can We See the Connection?

What do nutrition and genetics have in common? They could all be linked to vision problems experienced by some astronauts. We see people going up to space with perfect vision, but need glasses when the return home to Earth.

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Why Does This Study Matter?

We want to be able to send astronauts to Mars, but losing vision capability along the way is a BIG problem. Discovering the cause and possible treatments or preventions will help us safely send astronauts deeper into space than ever before. 

It’s Like Solving a Mystery

We already have an idea of why vision changes occur, but the real mystery remains…why do some astronauts have these issues, and other’s don’t?

Now, let’s break it down:

Nutrition is more than just what you eat. It includes how those things work inside your body. The biochemistry behind how your muscles make energy, how your brain utilizes glucose and how vitamins help with biochemical functions…it’s all part of nutrition.

Genetics also play a part in the vision changes we’re seeing in space. Data shows that there are differences in blood chemistry between astronauts that had vision issues and those that did not. We found that individuals with vision issues had different blood chemistries even before their flight to space. That means that some astronauts could be predisposed to vision issues in space.

Just in January 2016, scientists discovered this possible link between genetics, nutrition and vision changes in astronauts. It makes it clear that the vision problem is WAY more complex than we initially thought. 

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While we still don’t know exactly what is causing the vision issues, we are able to narrow down who to study, and refine our research. This will help find the cause, and hopefully lead to treatment and prevention of these problems.

Fluid Shifts

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The weightless environment of space also causes fluid shifts to occur in the body. This normal shift of fluids to the upper body in space causes increased inter-cranial pressure which could be reducing visual capacity in astronauts. We are currently testing how this can be counteracted by returning fluids to the lower body using a “lower body negative pressure” suit, also known as Chibis.

Benefits on Earth

Research in this area has also suggested that there may be similarities between astronaut data and individuals with a clinical syndrome affecting 10-20% of women, known as polycystic ovary syndrome. Studying this group may provide a way to better understand vision and cardiovascular system effects, which could also advance treatment and prevention for both astronauts and humans on Earth with this disease.

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Source: NASA

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Vision & Microgravity…Can We See the Connection?

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