Author(s): Rowe WJ
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Abstract The International Space Station provides an extraordinary facility to study the accelerated aging process in microgravity, which could be triggered by significant reductions in magnesium (Mg) ion levels with, in turn, elevations of catecholamines and vicious cycles between the two. With space flight there are significant reductions of serum Mg (P < 0.0001) that have been shown in large studies of astronauts and cosmonauts. The loss of the functional capacity of the cardiovascular system with space flight is over ten times faster than the course of aging on Earth. Mg is an antioxidant and calcium blocker and in space there is oxidative stress, insulin resistance, and inflammatory conditions with evidence in experimental animals of significant endothelial injuries and damage to mitochondria. The aging process is associated with progressive shortening of telomeres, repetitive DNA sequences, and proteins that cap and protect the ends of chromosomes. Telomerase can elongate pre-existing telomeres to maintain length and chromosome stability. Low telomerase triggers increased catecholamines while the sensitivity of telomere synthesis to Mg ions is primarily seen for the longer elongation products. Mg stabilizes DNA and promotes DNA replication and transcription, whereas low Mg might accelerate cellular senescence by reducing DNA stability, protein synthesis, and function of mitochondria. Telomerase, in binding to short DNAs, is Mg dependent. On Earth, in humans, a year might be required to detect changes in telomeres, but in space there is a predictably much shorter duration required for detection, which is therefore more reasonable in time and cost. Before and after a space mission, telomere lengths and telomerase enzyme activity can be determined and compared with age-matched control rats on Earth. The effect of Mg supplementation, both on maintaining telomere length and extending the life span, can be evaluated. Similar studies in astronauts would be fruitful.
This article was published in Clin Interv Aging
and referenced in Journal of Sports Medicine & Doping Studies