CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (CBS Tampa) – According to a recent study, an astronaut’s heart forms a spherical shape when in space.
The new finding shows that long missions in space can affect an astronaut’s health.
“The heart doesn’t work as hard in space, which can cause a loss of muscle mass,” James Thomas, MD, Moore Chair of Cardiovascular Imaging and Lead Scientist for Ultrasound at NASA, and the study’s lead author, said in a statement obtained by RedOrbit. “That can have serious consequences after the return to Earth, so we’re looking into whether there are measures that can be taken to prevent or counter act that loss.”
Astronauts need to do specific exercises while in space in order to keep their heart healthy.
Researchers trained 12 participating astronauts to take images of their hearts using ultrasound machines that were installed on the International Space Station.
Researchers were able to show that the heart became more of a spherical shape.
“The models predicted the changes we observed in the astronauts almost exactly. It gives us confidence that we can move ahead and start using these models for more clinically important application on Earth, such as to predict what happens to the heard under different stresses,” Thomas said.
Thomas said the spherical shape of the heart is only temporary and will return to normal after an astronaut returns to Earth.
The findings will be presented at the American College of Cardiology’s 63rd Annual Scientific Session.