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13 March 2014 11:08 am ,
Vol. 343 ,
In the shadow of the crisis in Crimea, Ukrainian legislators are weighing a pair of science and education bills that...
Researchers dependent on government funding would face a flat future under the White House's $3.9 trillion budget...
Reservoirs of cells that harbor HIV DNA woven into human chromosomes have become the bane of researchers trying to cure...
Geochemists have now incorporated in their models some details of the way naturally acidic rainwater dissolves rock...
Schizophrenia is a devastating mental disorder that afflicts about 1% of the world's population at one time or another...
Surface tension is a force to be reckoned with, especially if you are small. It enables a water strider to skate along...
- 13 March 2014 11:08 am , Vol. 343 , #6176
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ScienceShot: Could Space Travel Make You Go Blind?
19 February 2013 12:30 pm
BOSTON—When astronaut Michael Barratt spent 200 days on the International Space Station, he expected to experience some unpleasant physical changes. Without Earth's gravity pulling down on his body, he'd lose bone and muscle mass, his body would produce fewer red cells, and his heart would atrophy. As a doctor specializing in aerospace medicine, however, Barratt knew how to counteract those changes with diet and exercise. What he wasn't prepared for was the blurry vision. As he explained here yesterday at the annual meeting of AAAS (which publishes ScienceNOW), he was surprised when his eyesight significantly deteriorated after several weeks in space. When he consulted the medical records from earlier shuttle missions, he noticed that many other astronauts had reported a similar problem, but that no one had thought to look for a common cause. Thanks to Barratt's observations and a follow-up MRI experiment, scientists now believe the astronauts' vision loss is a consequence of living in microgravity. Without Earth's gravity pulling the body's fluids down, there's more pressure in the skull, which leads to swollen optic nerves, slightly flattened eyeballs, and—you guessed it—blurry vision. According to Barratt, it's still unclear why so-called "spaceflight ocular syndrome" seems to affect more men than women, and whether it could translate to permanent damage once the astronauts return to Earth.
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