HOUSTON (CBS Tampa) – New research shows that long-term damage to an astronauts eyes may happen in as little as two weeks.

Because they are high above Earth’s protective blanket of atmosphere, space-farers are exposed to high-levels of radiation from the Sun.

That radiation can cause damage on a cellular level.

Research on mice aboard the International Space Station finds genetic damage that makes it difficult for retina cells to reproduce, which can cause profound changes in the structure of the eye.

The changes can also damage chemical reactions in those cells.

Some changes in eye structure noted in the study “were partially reversible upon return to Earth,” Houston Methodist pathologist Patricia Chevez-Barrios tells SpaceDaily.com.

But other changes appeared permanent.

“And we saw changes in the expression of DNA damage repair genes and in apoptotic pathways, which help the body destroy cells that are irreparably damaged.”

Studies since 2001 have suggested astronauts are at increased risk of developing eye problems like premature loss of vision.

The study appears in the journal Gravitational and Space Research.

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