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Space Station Crew Members Take a Walk in Space

Study: Too much time in space turns astronauts' hearts into a sphere

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    Cheryl Santa Maria
    Digital Reporter

    Friday, April 4, 2014, 5:42 PM -

    It's like something out of a science fiction movie, but this is real life.

    A recent study by NASA suggests that human hearts can turn spherical following a prolonged period in space.

    It's believed that long exposure to microgravity can warp the shape of the heart, opening up the door for a number of health issues.

    "The heart doesn't work as hard in space, which can cause a loss of muscle mass," said James Thomas, lead scientist for ultrasound at NASA and senior author of the study. "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 counteract that loss."

    RELATED: NASA focused on plan to return human spaceflight to American soil by 2017 

    Data was collected on 12 astronauts before, during, and after their time aboard the International Space Station. It was discovered that shape of the heart changed by about 9%, becoming more more spherical, according to the International Business Times.

    The results were presented at the American College of Cardiology's 63rdAnnual Scientific Session.

    This is just one of many known effects of prolonged exposure to outer space.

    Others include a 1% loss in bone mass for each month spent in space, and a 10- 15%  decrease in red blood cell mass.

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