Space travel does not damage much of the human immune system, says new study



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Space flight does not have a detrimental effect on much of the human immune system, according to new research that may alter the way astronauts approach future missions.

The scientists tested blood samples collected from 23 crew members who spent six months on the International Space Station (ISS), taken before, during and after their travels.

Researchers who examined the samples found that time in space did not cause changes in the B cell immunity levels – the white blood cells that produce antibodies to fight infections.

Previously, it was thought that spending time in space negatively affected this.

The new data may decide whether astronauts who make longer journeys into space, including those who travel to Mars one day, should receive vaccines in flight.

"This is the first study to comprehensively show that long-space spaceflight on human astronauts has a limited effect on B-cell frequency and antibody production," said Dr. John Campbell, a professor at the University of Bath. "Our results are good news for the current astronauts aboard the ISS … and for all future astronauts who will attempt long-term space missions."

Astronauts should maintain optimal B-cell immunity to protect themselves against diseases caused by bacteria and viruses.

Scientists say immunity is also important to ensure that any vaccine administered in space is effective.

"Long-duration orbital space flights are associated with increased levels of psychological stress, acute and chronic exposure to spatial radiation, and microgravity-induced changes, all known to negatively impact the immune system," said Guillaume Spielmann of the State of Louisiana. University.

The blood samples used for the study were shipped from space to Earth in Russian Soyuz drop capsules.

They disembarked in Kazakhstan before being taken to Moscow and taken to a laboratory in Houston on a journey lasting between 32 and 48 hours.

The crew members involved in the study were between 37 and 57 years old, with data collected on 18 separate ISS missions.

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The researchers also collected blood samples from six people on the ground for a control group.

Their study was published in the Journal of Applied Physiology.

Additional Reports by Agencies

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