Scientists at UH partner with NASA, astronauts to study immune system

Apr 05, 2013

Fighting viruses is a regular battle for your body, one it routinely wins if it has a healthy immune system. But compromised systems, as experienced occasionally by astronauts during space flights, can allow viruses to return.

A research study from the University of Houston Department of Health and Human Performance (HHP) partners with NASA and astronauts aboard the International Space Station to examine how spaceflight affects the immune system.

"All of us have viruses that we're already infected with, and our immune system does a very good job of controlling them," said Rickie Simpson, principle investigator and assistant professor of exercise and immunology. "When astronauts are in space, those viruses reactivate a lot. What we don't know is if altered immunity and viral reactivation pose a significant risk to the health of astronauts when they're in space for a prolonged period of time." Simpson and his research team will collect blood, saliva and urine from two astronauts before, during and after an upcoming mission. They'll be measuring , potent cells capable of killing even , and monitoring their health for several months.

" is this unique environment that is very stressful. We know that these viruses come back, but we don't know if it's because of the stress or if it's because they're in space," Simpson said. "This may be very helpful in understanding how this works for stressful environments on Earth. Students' examination stress, medical students taking final exams, —caregivers for example—those are stressful situations capable of triggering latent viral reactivations."

Blood and will be collected from the astronauts 180 days before launch for a baseline measure, then again 60 days before launch. While aboard the , the astronauts will collect further samples several times before coming back to Earth. They'll then be monitored for six months.

"Our goal is to have six astronauts enrolled in the study, which will take several years," Simpson said. The University of Houston has partnered with NASA on other HHP research projects, including the creation of a microfiber sweat patch to study bone loss in astronauts.

Explore further: Elon Musk's SpaceX drops lawsuit against Air Force

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Astronauts send royal wedding wishes from space

Apr 29, 2011

International Space Station astronauts sent greetings from the cosmos to Prince William and Kate Middleton after soaring over Britain on the eve of the royal wedding Friday.

Recommended for you

NASA craft set to beam home close-ups of Pluto

8 minutes ago

Nine years after leaving Earth, the New Horizons spacecraft is at last drawing close to Pluto and on Sunday was expected to start shooting photographs of the dwarf planet.

Elon Musk's SpaceX drops lawsuit against Air Force

10 hours ago

A spacecraft company run by billionaire Elon Musk has dropped a lawsuit alleging the U.S. Air Force improperly awarded a contract to launch military satellites to a joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed ...

NASA spacecraft almost to Pluto: Smile for the camera!

Jan 23, 2015

It's showtime for Pluto. NASA's New Horizons spacecraft has traveled 3 billion miles and is nearing the end of its nine-year journey to Pluto. Sunday, it begins photographing the mysterious, unexplored, icy ...

Gullies on Vesta suggest past water-mobilized flows

Jan 23, 2015

(Phys.org)—Protoplanet Vesta, visited by NASA's Dawn spacecraft from 2011 to 2013, was once thought to be completely dry, incapable of retaining water because of the low temperatures and pressures at its ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.