Navigation Links
Immune system compromised during spaceflight, study finds

Tucson, Ariz. -- Astronauts are known to have a higher risk of getting sick compared to their Earth-bound peers. The stresses that go with weightlessness, confined crew quarters, being away from family and friends and a busy work schedule - all the while not getting enough sleep - are known to wreak havoc on the immune system.

A research group led by immunobiologist Ty Lebsack at the University of Arizona has discovered that spaceflight changes the activity of genes controlling immune and stress response, perhaps leading to more sickness.

Between spaceflight affecting a crew's susceptibility to infections and previous observations of sickness-causing microbes thriving in a near-zero gravity environment, long journeys to far-away destinations such as Mars pose a big challenge to manned space missions.

"Taken together, our results hint at the possibility that an astronaut's immune system might be compromised in space," said Lebsack of the UA's department of immunobiology in the College of Medicine.

Lebsack and his colleagues focused their study on the thymus gland, the organ that serves as a "factory" and "training academy" for T-cells that are key players of the immune system. They compared gene-expression patterns in thymuses from four healthy mice that had spent 13 days aboard NASA's STS-118 Endeavor Space Shuttle to those from an equal number of control mice on the ground.

Their finding: 970 individual genes in the thymus of space-flown mice were up or down-regulated by a 1.5 fold change or greater. When these changes were averaged, 12 genes in the thymus tissue of all four space-flown mice were significantly up or down-regulated. "The altered genes we observed were found to primarily affect signaling molecules that play roles in programmed cell death and regulate how the body responds to stress," Lebsack said.

Programmed cell death plays an important role in a functioning body, for example in the disposal of cells that are no longer needed or damaged beyond repair. However, cell death must be tightly regulated in the immune system to ensure the process does not get out of hand.

"Many of the genes whose activity was down-regulated in the space-flown mice play important roles in maintaining that balance," Lebsack said. "Potentially, you could get more cell death aboard a spacecraft because of these differences."

The results fit in with experiments carried out on the ground to study how microgravity affects immune cells. In these experiments, scientists mimicked weightlessness using clinostats - apparatuses that slowly rotate the study object so the Earth's gravitational pull is never perceived as coming from one consistent direction.

"Previous studies with cell cultures in clinostats showed increased cell death in T-cells when you take away the gravity stimulus," said Lebsack, "so it was a logical step to test whether we find the same effects in animals exposed to an actual lack of gravity."

"We observed an overall pattern about the genes whose expression was changed by space flight: All of them are involved, in one way or another, in the development, control and programmed cell death of immune cells."

This study represents the first use of microarray technology to investigate gene expression in thymus tissue of space-flown mice, according to the authors. Complex research undertakings like this require specialists combining their different areas of expertise.

Lebsack worked with research specialist Jose Munoz-Rodriguez at the Arizona Genomics Core Microarray Facility to compare and analyze the activity levels of thousands of genes in thymus tissue from the space-flown mice and the control group. The vast amount of data generated in this process were then processed with input from David Mount, who heads the Informatics/Bioinformatics Shared Service, and graduate student Ann Manziello, who is a co-author on the study. Both facilities are housed in the Arizona Cancer Center.


Contact: Daniel Stolte
University of Arizona

Related biology news :

1. Bursts of waves drive immune system soldiers toward invaders
2. Key to out-of-control immune response in lung injury found
3. Flies can turn off their immune response
4. How the plant immune system can drive the formation of new species
5. Auto immune response creates barrier to fertility; could be a step in speciation
6. Immune police recognize good and bad guys in the body
7. Agent that triggers immune response in plants is uncovered
8. Immune cells promote blood vessel formation in mouse endometriosis
9. Influenza vaccine causes weaker immune response for children of rural Gabon than in semi-urban areas
10. The PIN codes of the immune system can be hacked
11. Pathogens use previously undescribed mechanism to sabotage host immune system
Post Your Comments:
Related Image:
Immune system compromised during spaceflight, study finds
(Date:10/29/2015)...   MedNet Solutions , an innovative SaaS-based eClinical ... research, is pleased to announce that it has been ... one of only three finalists for a 2015 ... Growing" category. The Tekne Awards honor Minnesota ... innovation and leadership. iMedNet™ eClinical ...
(Date:10/29/2015)... 2015  Connected health pioneer, Joseph C. Kvedar ... technology-enabled health and wellness, and the business opportunities that ... The Internet of Healthy Things . Long before ... existed, Dr. Kvedar, vice president, Connected Health, Partners HealthCare, ... moving care from the hospital or doctor,s office into ...
(Date:10/27/2015)... Germany , October 27, 2015 ... SMI,s Automated Semantic Gaze Mapping technology (ASGM) automatically maps ... SMI,s Eye Tracking Glasses , so that they ... BeGaze. --> Munich, Germany , ... (ASGM) automatically maps data from mobile eye tracking videos ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:11/24/2015)... ... ... The Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA), led by its Executive Council, has officially ... to represent the First–Person View (FPV) racing community. , FPV racing has exploded in ... racing and several new model aviation pilots have joined the community because of their ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... Nov. 24, 2015 /PRNewswire/ - Aeterna Zentaris Inc. ... that the remaining 11,000 post-share consolidation (or 1,100,000 ... (the "Series B Warrants") subject to the previously ... November 23, 2015, which will result in the ... effect to the issuance of such shares, there ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... ... 24, 2015 , ... Creation Technologies would like to extend ... 2015 Technology Fast 500 list of the fastest growing companies in North America. ... medical device that speeds up orthodontic tooth movement by as much as 50 ...
(Date:11/24/2015)...  PDL BioPharma, Inc. (PDL) (NASDAQ: PDLI ) today ... and chief executive officer, will present at the 27 th ... New York City . The presentation will be ... at 9:30 a.m. EST. and go ... least 15 minutes prior to the presentation to allow for ...
Breaking Biology Technology: