Three fruit fly missions are planned for 2014. Ames; Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif.; and the Sanford Burnham Medical Research Institute in La Jolla, Calif. are leading a cardiovascular study. A student-run study will investigate neurobehavioral changes that occur during spaceflight. The maiden voyage of the Fruit Fly Lab is set for 2014. These upcoming space station investigations benefit from previous experience gained from studies conducted aboard the space shuttle.
In a study funded by NASA's Space Biology Program entitled Fungal Pathogenesis, Tumorigenesis, and Effects of Host Immunity in Space (FIT), fruit flies were housed aboard space shuttle Discovery during its STS-121 mission in 2006 for nearly 13 days to determine the impact of spaceflight on immune function. The results show that spaceflight alters the immune responses of Drosophila in ways that resemble the immune suppression observed in astronauts. These findings may help researchers develop countermeasures to keep astronauts healthy over long-duration space missions. Additionally, studies of compromised immunity are broadly relevant to human immune diseases on Earth.
"Since the human immune system is complex, we used the Drosophila model to tease out the effects of spaceflight on the simpler innate immune system of the fruit fly, focusing on molecular pathways that perform similar functions in the human immune system," said Sharmila Bhattacharya, Ph.D., principal investigator for the FIT study and scientist in the Space Biosciences Division at Ames.
|Contact: Laura Niles|
NASA/Johnson Space Center