Eye Health: Space Travelers’ Vision Problems

Recently, the International Space Station have revealed formerly unreported effects on eyesight from a long-duration space flight.

Now, a new and significant finding in this area was published in THE FASEB Journal, as senior author Dr, Scott M. Smith, a researcher in the Biomedical Research and Environment Sciences Division at NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston, TX, explained that they have identified “a genetic link in astronauts with vision issues.”

Dr. Smith, together with his colleagues discovered that two notable differences can affect the vision of an astronaut. These differences influence enzymes that direct a necessary biochemical process in cells.
He explained that their findings limits down who to study and should catalyze the search for the cause and treatment of this problem.

This discovery encompasses the role of enzymes that direct an essential metabolic process of cells which is the “one-carbon pathway.” A disturbance in the pathway has been tied to many diseases, even to eye health.

It has been identified from previous studies that astronauts who experienced vision problems in space have higher pre-flight levels of some one-carbon pathway metabolites and an example is homocysteine.

An investigation has been decided by Dr. Smith together with his colleagues. A number of tests have been conducted on blood samples collected from astronauts. The results were compared with measurements from eye and vision exams.

In their investigation, they found out that two genetic differences in the enzymes that control the one-carbon pathway were important in establishing whether individual astronauts developed in low-gravity environments a vision problem. Also, they found out evidence to suggest levels of B vitamins may be another factor.

Studies done previously suggest genetic variation in the enzymes that control the pathway are implicated in a range of illnesses, which includes cardiovascular disease, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and stroke.

The importance of the study was sum up by Dr. Smith:

“Not only may the results have significant implications for NASA and future astronauts, but the implications for the general population could be profound.”
Source: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/304944.php

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