One day before STS-121 launched, the researchers placed five male and ten female flies into each of ten fly cassettes. Half were loaded onto the shuttle, and half remained on the ground. On Day 13, Discovery returned to Earth with approximately 3,000 flies aboard. A new generation was raised in space.
Analysis began within hours of landing. The researchers compared the spaceflight group of flies with the ground control specimens. They looked at molecular markers of immune function and tested the ability of whole flies and fly immune cells to fight infection with the bacterium E. coli. Results showed that spaceflight affects the immune system in multiple ways that vary with the age of the organism. According to Bhattacharya, "It was striking to see how evident the effects of spaceflight were on the behavior, development and immune system of the animals that had returned."
Previous studies demonstrate the usefulness of fruit flies for space biology research, paving the way for upcoming investigations. NASA's Fruit Fly Lab will deliver advanced tools for long-duration spaceflight experiments, ensuring Drosophila melanogastera different breed of supermodelcontinues to book appearances for extensive study in labs both on and off this world.
|Contact: Laura Niles|
NASA/Johnson Space Center