Wake Forest Baptist Scientist Publishes Finding from NASA’s Twins Study

Research conducted by Jeffrey Willey, PhD, associate professor of radiation oncology, on aspects of the effects of spaceflight on the human body was published in November in the journal Cell. His research included data from NASA’s Twins Study and from other missions that collected experimental research on the International Space Station including samples from 59 astronauts, and from both cell- and rodent-based studies.

A man in glasses, gloves and a white coat looks at a test tube he is holdingSuch studies are critical to understanding the effects of low gravity, radiation, confined spaces, and more as NASA sends astronauts deep into space for extended missions to the moon, Mars and beyond.
“What our study discovered was that the powerhouse machinery of the cell that is largely responsible for making energy, called the mitochondria, is dysfunctional in cells, mice and humans during spaceflight,” Willey said. “Dysfunction of the mitochondria occurs in many health problems on Earth, such as certain cancers, heart diseases and others. Our research efforts aimed at protecting human health in space may also apply to helping promote good health here on Earth.”