As a new study about space travel emerges, we learn how our immune system is affected by something known as microgravity.
It’s not a secret anymore. Astronauts became sick with various infections or with colds within just a week of returning home. Some have even experienced some strange cases of re-activation of dormant viruses, which could be the worst-case scenario. How much our immune system could have to suffer while space travelling has never been before questioned. But that’s about to change.
We finally have more details about how our bodies react to the space environment.
Here is what you need to know.
It’s in the Cells
The recent study was based on Millie Hughes-Fulford’s research and work. She was one of the first women astronauts, who, unfortunately, passed away a few months ago. The findings are genuinely intriguing yet concerning.
The team of scientists succeeded in confirming some of Hughes-Fulford’s previous discoveries from experiments in space and simulated microgravity. To recall, she found some weaker responses from T lymphocytes of our immune system while in space.
“There is a dampening of T lymphocyte immune activation responses, but also an exacerbation of immunosuppressive responses by Tregs (T regulator cells),” explains Brice Gaydilliere, MD, PhD.
The scientists simulated microgravity in blood samples with a cylindrical, cell-culture vessel with motor-triggered rotation. Then, they detected individual immune cells by particular type, using mass spectroscopy and metal tags.
That was necessary to identify and quantify dozens of proteins essential in immune function, confirming previous patterns of modified gene activation.
Long Story Short
Microgravity in space can really wreak our physiology and is harmful to astronauts’ health. But such a thing was first identified during early Apollo missions.
Unfortunately, no research to little was performed.
The Apollo astronauts experienced low blood pressure, loss of calcium in their bones, heart arrhythmia, dehydration, and some inner ear disturbances.
Until now, such things were never fully acknowledged. So it’s best to raise awareness about what space travelling can do to our health, so we could finally develop some ways of preventing it.