Trip to Space Station Grows Hair on Male Mice

Some experiments are not easy to perform. Consider a recent publication reporting six mice sent to live 91 days on the international space station (ISS) while their control group was on earth. (Neutelings et al, 2015) Alas, one mouse did not survive lift off, and two others died during the mission. Do not criticize the investigators because of the small number of animals involved or the fact that they were all males. Instead, concentrate on the most interesting finding for those earthbound humans who are developing baldness: the increased number of anagen (growing follicles) in the mouse in space. Hence, the mouse exposed to microgravity and other environmental factors on the ISS had dramatically increased transcripts associated with growing hairs.

Homo sapiens in space commonly experience skin injuries. One human experiment in progress involves one twin on earth and one in the station. There are returning human astronauts, and their hair could be checked for anagen/telogen ratio (a rather benign test). It is unclear whether the cost of sending someone to sit in the station is a high price to trigger their hair into anagen. For some, more hair at any price may be worth it. More studies can determine if more hairs are entering anagen or whether they are not leaving anagen.

This is a set of experiments that should be followed closely, and maybe balding individuals can donate their dimes and dollars to sponsor experiments such as these during long voyages on the station — or even longer voyages to Mars.


T Neutelings, BV Nusgens, Y Liu et al (2015) Skin physiology in microgravity: a 3-month stay aboard ISS induces dermal atrophy and affects cutaneous muscle and hair follicles cycling in mice npj microgravity doi:10.1038/npjmgrav.2015.2