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Shuttle mice to boost disease research
Date:10/29/2010

ren, however, the infection spreads to the lungs, where the inflammation it generates causes coughing, wheezing and extreme difficulty in breathing.

Another group of mice kept in nearly identical conditions on the ground will also be exposed to the virus. Garofalo's team will conduct genetic and protein studies of the lung and nasal tissues of both sets of mice, evaluating lung inflammation, viral replication and other key factors related to RSV infection in mice.

"We have substantial experience using mice to study immune response to RSV infection, and that will enable us to look at all the aspects of the immune responses of these mice as well as the pathological manifestations of the disease, looking at ways in which the space environment affects this respiratory infection," Garofalo said.

Understanding how spaceflight impairs the immune system and finding ways to make sure that infection doesn't threaten the health of space travelers are expected to become increasingly important, as NASA plans human expeditions beyond the relative safety of Earth orbit to Mars, for example, or the asteroids. The developing commercial spaceflight industry, which hopes to launch large numbers of private citizens into orbit in the near future, also has a stake in ensuring that its passengers stay safe and healthy.

Despite the shuttle program's end, Garofalo said, immune system experiments in space may well continue on the International Space Station.

"The space environment incorporates many factors that we know affect the immune system microgravity, radiation, even different nutritional standards all acting in a relatively short period of time," Garofalo said. "The space station provides a unique environment for generating answers to fundamental questions about the human immune system. Those answers will benefit people here on Earth, and there's been a lot of interest in pursuing them."


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Contact: Jim Kelly
jpkelly@utmb.edu
409-772-8791
University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston
Source:Eurekalert

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