Stresses of rocket launch and landing produce changes to immune
26 November 2012
Immune system development is affected by gravity changes
experienced during rocket launch and landing, which disrupts the body’s
natural defences against infection, according to a study by the
Universities of Lorraine and Luxembourg. The researchers say changes to
the immune system need to be investigated before astronauts undergo
longer space missions.
Researchers looked at how antibody production is affected when
animal development occurs onboard a space station and which part of
space travel has the greatest impact on antibodies, which are the
proteins that the immune system uses to protect us from diseases. To
do this, they sent Iberian ribbed newt, Pleurodeles waltl,
embryos to the International Space Station before the newt embryos
started to develop IgM antibody, which is also found in humans and
is the largest antibody that circulates in blood.
Upon landing, they were compared with embryos grown on Earth.
Antibody mRNAs in space and earth newts were different. The IgM
antibody was doubled at landing. Findings show that gravity changes
during development affect antibodies and the regeneration of white
blood cells, which are important in defending the body against
infectious diseases. Spaceflight did not affect newt development nor
did it cause inflammation.
Scientists believe that these changes could also occur in humans,
and require further experimentation to see how gravity can influence
the immune system and white blood cell function, which play a role
in many human diseases including cancer and diabetes.