Mice grow a thinner skin during long stays in space

Nicole Stott

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.

NASA

Long trips in space may thin the skin. Three months spent aboard the International Space Station made mice’s skin waste away and made the animals’ hair 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 of space on skin in such a long-term study before.

At 91 days in space, the astromice broke the record for weightlessness for nonhuman animals. The mice’s  flimsy skin suggests that humans may suffer similar damage on extended space flights. But because only three of six mice survived the trip into space, the findings are still preliminary, researchers report May 27 in npj Microgravity, a new open-access journal of the Nature Publishing Group and the Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University.

Meghan Rosen headhsot

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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