Space travel has been one of the greatest achievements of the last century. Indeed, putting humans in space took a lot of time, effort, dedication, and planning. However, there is still a lot to learn. Recently, scientists have gained a better understanding of how space travel specifically affects the body at the molecular level, providing insight into the potential long-term effects it will have on an individual’s health. According to a recent NASA statement, scientists are now starting to understand that “a possible underlying factor of these impacts [is] the powerhouse of the cell, called the mitochondria, [which] undergoes changes in activity during space flights. This full view of the International Space Station was photographed from Space Shuttle Discovery … [+] during the STS-114 return flight mission, following the undocking of the two spacecraft. getty The statement says this preliminary belief stems from decades of research conducted on the International Space Station and samples from around 59 astronauts. The findings are based on a larger compendium of research by several principal investigators, studies and scientific efforts that take a closer look at how space affects human health. Afshin Beheshti, who is one of the key scientists, says, “We have found a universal mechanism that explains the types of changes we are seeing in the body in space, and in a place that we did not expect. […] Everything is turned upside down and it all starts with the mitochondria. Beheshti continues: “When we started to compare the tissues of mice transported on separate space missions, we noticed that mitochondrial dysfunction continued to emerge. […] Whether we were looking at eye or liver problems, the same mitochondrial pathways were causing the problem. CAP CANAVERAL, FL – NOVEMBER 15: NASA astronauts, vehicle pilot Victor Glover (front L), commander … [+] Mike Hopkins (front R), mission specialist Shannon Walker (rear L) and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) mission specialist, astronaut Soichi Noguchi (rear R) exit the operations building and aircraft en route to the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the Crew Dragon spacecraft on Launch Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center November 15, 2020 in Cape Canaveral, Florida. This will mark the second astronaut launch from American soil by NASA and SpaceX and the first operational mission named Crew-1 to the International Space Station. (Photo by Red Huber / Getty Images) Getty Images The press release further states that “NASA data on humans has confirmed this hypothesis. The changes identified in the immune system of astronaut Scott Kelly during his year in space from 2015 can also be explained by the changes observed in the activity of his mitochondria. Blood and urine samples from dozens of other astronauts have shown additional evidence that in various cell types being in space results in altered mitochondrial activity. Evagelia C. Laiakis, PhD, associate professor of oncology at Georgetown said that “although we have each studied different tissues, we have all come to the same conclusion: that mitochondrial function has been adversely affected by travel in l ‘space.” Regardless, the disease related to mitochondrial dysfunction is a broad area of study, which has some level of understanding in both physiological and pathological contexts. So, Beheshti states that perhaps “We can look at the countermeasures and drugs that we are already using to treat mitochondrial disorders on Earth to see how they might work in space, to begin with. Indeed, this crucial finding reaffirms that more research needs to be done in this area to continue examining the short and long term health effects of space travel on humans. Only then can humanity truly unlock and explore the full potential that space has to offer. .