Mice become thin-skinned in space

NASA astronaut Nicole Stott hovers near the Mice Drawer System aboard the International Space Station. Mice housed in the space cage developed thin skin after 91 days of weightlessness.


Long trips in space may thin the skin. Three months on the International Space Station prompted mice skin to waste away and the animals’ hair to grow, a new study shows. Scientists had hints that skin might be sensitive to weightlessness (astronauts frequently report skin injuries), but no one had analyzed the effects in such a long-term study before.

At 91 days in space, the astromice broke the record for weightlessness for nonhuman animals. The flimsy skin suggests that people may suffer similar damage on extended spaceflights. But because only three of six mice survived the trip, the findings are still preliminary, researchers report online May 27 in npj Microgravity, a new open-access journal.

Meghan Rosen is a staff writer who reports on the life sciences for Science News. She earned a Ph.D. in biochemistry and molecular biology with an emphasis in biotechnology from the University of California, Davis, and later graduated from the science communication program at UC Santa Cruz.

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