The devices “Puls” and “Pneumocard” were developed to further investigate autonomic cardiovascular and respiratory function on board the ISS. Investigations on board the “Mir” station showed transient changes in neurohumoral regulation indicating individual adaptation of regulatory systems. Therefore, an experiment “Pulse” has been performed starting with the fifth expedition on the ISS. The aim of the experiment is to investigate adaptation of the autonomic nervous system by measuring cardiorespiratory parameters during standardized tests at zero-gravity. Our results suggest that the adaptation to zero-gravity in terms of the autonomic cardiorespiratory control was adequate in all cosmonauts ( n = 5 ) . However, the characteristics of the responses during flight depend on the individual regulatory type. The individual evaluation of the regulatory systems especially during the initial stages of flight, during episodes of space sickness and after landing may shed light on critical changes of functional reserves and allow to reduce inflight and postflight disturbances.
Prolonged exposure to microgravity during spaceflight is thought to adversely affect the human spine because of reports that disc herniation risk is increased post-spaceflight. The increased herniation risk is highest during the first post-spaceflight year, and gradually subsides thereafter. Consequently, we hypothesized that the biomechanical properties of the intervertebral disc (IVD) deteriorate during spaceflight but then recover after acclimation to normal gravity. To test this hypothesis, we compared the compressive creep properties of caudal IVDs of murine subjects that had returned from a 13-day Shuttle mission (STS-133) to those of ground-based control mice. Spaceflight (n=6) and control (n=10) groups consisted of 13-week-old, BALB/c mice (11 weeks at launch). Mice were sacrificed +1 day, +5 days, or +7 days after the landing of STS-133. Disc height was measured in situ, and compressive creep rate was fit to a fluid transport model to determine disc biomechanical properties. Compared to controls, spaceflight mice had 12.6% lower disc height and 23.1% lower straindependence on swelling pressure. Biomechanical properties did not recover significantly over the 7-day post-flight period. Biomechanical properties of the murine caudal IVD were diminished by spaceflight, consistent with observations that prolonged exposure to microgravity increases disc herniation risk. These properties did not recover after short-term reacclimation to 1g loading.
Effect of microgravity on the biomechanical properties of lumbar and caudal intervertebral discs in mice
Prolonged exposure to microgravity has shown to have deleterious effects on the human spine, indicated by low back pain during spaceflight and increased incidence of post-spaceflight herniated nucleus pulposus. We examined the effect of microgravity on biomechanical properties of lumbar and caudal discs from mice having been on 15-day shuttle mission STS-131. Sixteen C57BL/C mice (spaceflight group, n=8; ground-based control group, n=8) were sacrificed immediately after spaceflight. Physiological disc height (PDH) was measured in situ, and compressive creep tests were performed to parameterize biomechanical properties into endplate permeability (k), nuclear swelling pressure strain dependence (D), and annular viscoelasticity (G). For caudal discs, the spaceflight group exhibited 32% lower PDH, 70% lower D and crept more compared to the control mice (p=0.03). For lumbar discs, neither PDH nor D was significantly different between murine groups. Initial modulus, osmotic pressure, k and G for lumbar and caudal discs did not appear influenced by microgravity (p>0.05). Decreases in both PDH and D suggest prolonged microgravity effectively diminished biomechanical properties of caudal discs. By contrast, differences were not noted for lumbar discs. This potentially deleterious interaction between prolonged weightlessness and differential ranges of motion along the spine may underlie the increased cervical versus lumbar disc herniation rates observed among astronauts.
BACKGROUND: The mollusk statocyst is a mechanosensing organ detecting the animal's orientation with respect to gravity. This system has clear similarities to its vertebrate counterparts: a weight-lending mass, an epithelial layer containing small supporting cells and the large sensory hair cells, and an output eliciting compensatory body reflexes to perturbations. METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: In terrestrial gastropod snail we studied the impact of 16- (Foton M-2) and 12-day (Foton M-3) exposure to microgravity in unmanned orbital missions on: (i) the whole animal behavior (Helix lucorum L.), (ii) the statoreceptor responses to tilt in an isolated neural preparation (Helix lucorum L.), and (iii) the differential expression of the Helix pedal peptide (HPep) and the tetrapeptide FMRFamide genes in neural structures (Helix aspersa L.). Experiments were performed 13–42 hours after return to Earth. Latency of body re-orientation to sudden 90° head-down pitch was significantly reduced in postflight snails indicating an enhanced negative gravitaxis response. Statoreceptor responses to tilt in postflight snails were independent of motion direction, in contrast to a directional preference observed in control animals. Positive relation between tilt velocity and firing rate was observed in both control and postflight snails, but the response magnitude was significantly larger in postflight snails indicating an enhanced sensitivity to acceleration. A significant increase in mRNA expression of the gene encoding HPep, a peptide linked to ciliary beating, in statoreceptors was observed in postflight snails; no differential expression of the gene encoding FMRFamide, a possible neurotransmission modulator, was observed. CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE: Upregulation of statocyst function in snails following microgravity exposure parallels that observed in vertebrates suggesting fundamental principles underlie gravi-sensing and the organism's ability to adapt to gravity changes. This simple animal model offers the possibility to describe general subcellular mechanisms of nervous system's response to conditions on Earth and in space.
Spaceflight conditions have a significant impact on a number of physiological functions due to psychological stress, radiation, and reduced gravity. To explore the effect of the flight environment on immunity, C57BL/6NTac mice were flown on a 13-day space shuttle mission (STS-118). In response to flight, animals had a reduction in liver, spleen, and thymus masses compared with ground (GRD) controls (P < 0.005). Splenic lymphocyte, monocyte/macrophage, and granulocyte counts were significantly reduced in the flight (FLT) mice (P < 0.05). Although spontaneous blastogenesis of splenocytes in FLT mice was increased, response to lipopolysaccharide (LPS), a B-cell mitogen derived from Escherichia coli, was decreased compared with GRD mice (P < 0.05). Secretion of IL-6 and IL-10, but not TNF-α, by LPS-stimulated splenocytes was increased in FLT mice (P < 0.05). Finally, many of the genes responsible for scavenging reactive oxygen species were upregulated after flight. These data indicate that exposure to the spaceflight environment can increase anti-inflammatory mechanisms and change the ex vivo response to LPS, a bacterial product associated with septic shock and a prominent Th1 response.
The Biorisk experiment: 13-month exposure of resting forms of organism on the outer side of the Russian Segment of the International Space Station: preliminary results
Abstract and Paper are presented in Russian
Microgravity-induced physiologic changes could impair a crewmember's performance upon return to a gravity environment. The Functional Task Test aims to correlate these physiologic alterations with changes in performance during mission-critical tasks. In this study, we evaluated spaceflight-induced cardiovascular changes during 11 functional tasks in 7 Shuttle astronauts before spaceflight, on landing day, and 1, 6, and 30 days after landing. Mean heart rate was examined during each task and autonomic activity was approximated by heart rate variability during the Recovery from Fall/Stand Test, a 2-min prone rest followed by a 3-min stand. Heart rate was increased on landing day during all of the tasks, and remained elevated 6 days after landing during 6 of the 11 tasks. Parasympathetic modulation was diminished and sympathovagal balance was increased on landing day. Additionally, during the stand test 6 days after landing, parasympathetic modulation remained suppressed and heart rate remained elevated compared to preflight levels. Heart rate and autonomic activity were not different from preflight levels 30 days after landing. We detected changes in heart rate and autonomic activity during a 3-min stand and a variety of functional tasks, where cardiovascular deconditioning was still evident 6 days after returning from short-duration spaceflight. The delayed recovery times for heart rate and parasympathetic modulation indicate the necessity of assessing functional performance after long-duration spaceflight to ensure crew health and safety.
To get better appreciation of the margins of phenotypic adaptation and genotypic changes in bacteria-fungi associations within the typical microbiota residing on structural materials of space-flown equipment, developed were a program and hardware for a series of experiments under the general name BIORISK. Protocol of each experimental cycle is based on the well-proven method of exposure of "passive" samples of materials (Biorisk-KM), microorganisms-materials systems inside the ISS service module (Biorisk-MSV), and microorganisms-materials systems on the outside of the ISS SM (Biorisk-MSN). Each six months the samples are returned to the laboratory in conjunction with crew rotation. Already the first in-hand data from the experiment point to the dramatic effect of space flight on growth, reproduction, and biological properties of test microbes and fungi. Thus, the activity of enzymes that characterize the pathogenic potential (RNA-ase and DNA-ase), and resistance of microorganisms to aseptic agents were found increased.
Sustained weightlessness affects all body functions, among these also cardiac autonomic control mechanisms. How this may influence neural response to central stimulation by a mental arithmetic task remains an open question. The hypothesis was tested that microgravity alters cardiovascular neural response to standardized cognitive load stimuli. Beat-to-beat heart rate, brachial blood pressure, and respiratory frequency were collected in five astronauts, taking part in three different short-duration (10 to 11 days) space missions to the International Space Station. Data recording was performed in supine position 1 mo before launch; at days 5 or 8 in space; and on days 1, 4, and 25 after landing. Heart rate variability (HRV) parameters were obtained in the frequency domain. Measurements were performed in the control condition for 10 min and during a 5-min mental arithmetic stress task, consisting of deducting 17 from a four-digit number, read by a colleague, and orally announcing the result. Our results show that over all sessions (pre-, in-, and postflight), mental stress induced an average increase in mean heart rate (Δ7 ± 1 beats/min; P = 0.03) and mean arterial pressure (Δ7 ± 1 mmHg; P = 0.006). A sympathetic excitation during mental stress was shown from HRV parameters: increase of low frequency expressed in normalized units (Δ8.3 ± 1.4; P = 0.004) and low frequency/high frequency (Δ1.6 ± 0.3; P = 0.001) and decrease of high frequency expressed in normalized units (Δ8.9 ± 1.4; P = 0.004). The total power was not influenced by mental stress. No effect of spaceflight was found on baseline heart rate, mean arterial pressure, and HRV parameters. No differences in response to mental stress were found between pre-, in-, and postflight. Our findings confirm that a mental arithmetic task in astronauts elicits sympathovagal shifts toward enhanced sympathetic modulation and reduced vagal modulation. However, these responses are not changed in space during microgravity or after spaceflight.
Prevalence of sleep deficiency and use of hypnotic drugs in astronauts before, during, and after spaceflight: an observational study
BackgroundSleep deprivation and fatigue are common subjective complaints among astronauts. Previous studies of sleep and hypnotic drug use in space have been limited to post-flight subjective survey data or in-flight objective data collection from a small number of crew members. We aimed to characterise representative sleep patterns of astronauts on both short-duration and long-duration spaceflight missions.