Experiments performed in orbit on the central nervous system have focused on the control of posture, eye movements, spatial orientation, as well as cognitive processes, such as three-dimensional visual perception and mental representation of space. Brain activity has also been recorded during and immediately after space flight for evaluating the changes in brain structure activation during tasks involving perception, attention, memory, decision, and action. Recent ground-based studies brought evidence that the inputs from the neurovestibular system also participate in orthostatic intolerance. It is, therefore, important to revisit the flight data of neuroscience studies in the light of new models of integrative physiology. The outcomes of this exercise will increase our knowledge on the adaptation of body functions to changing gravitational environment, vestibular disorders, aging, and our approach towards more effective countermeasures during human space flight and planetary exploration.
Research Containing: Adaptation
The five-year experience of experimentation in the autonomic regulation of blood circulation on board the International Space Station is presented. The heart rate variability (HRV) analysis was the basic methodical approach in these investigations. The probabilistic approach to the estimation of the risk of pathology under long-term spaceflight conditions based on HRV analysis is described. The individual type of autonomic regulation was taken into account in the analysis of the results of the investigations. The type of regulation inherent in every cosmonaut under the conditions of weightlessness has been shown to be retained during subsequent flights. New scientific data on the relationship between the character of the adaptive response of the body to spaceflight factors and the individual type of autonomic response have been obtained. Staying in weightlessness has been shown to be connected with the readjustment of regulatory systems and with transition to the zone of prenosological states. Adaptation responses in weightlessness are characterized by the increased tension of the regulatory systems and the preservation of sufficient functional reserves. The mobilization of additional resources is required after returning to earth, due to which the functional reserve of the mechanisms of regulation decreases. Cosmonauts with the vagotonic and normosympathotonic types of autonomic regulation appear to be the most resistant. The knowledge of the type of autonomic regulation allows us to judge the potential response of the cosmonaut to spaceflight factors. The likelihood estimates were calculated, and the risk categories were determined by the results of HRV analysis in the last months of the flight. Three pathology risk groups were identified. In conclusion, the theoretical and applied significance of the experiments was considered.
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.
In an effort to speed the rate of discovery in space biology and medicine NASA introduced the now defunct model specimen program. Four nations applied this approach with Caenorhabditis elegans in the ICE-FIRST experiment. Here we review the standardized culturing as well as the investigation of muscle adaptation, space biology radiation, and gene expression in response to spaceflight. Muscle studies demonstrated that decreased expression of myogenic transcription factors underlie the decreased expression of myosin seen in flight, a response that would appear to be evolutionarily conserved. Radiation studies demonstrated that radiation damaged cells should be able to be removed via apoptosis in flight, and that C. elegans can be employed as a biological accumulating dosimeter. Lastly, ICE-FIRST gave us our first glimpse at the genomic response to spaceflight, suggesting that altered Insulin and/or TGF-beta signaling in flight may underlie many of the biological changes seen in response to spaceflight. The fact that the results obtained with C. elegans appear to have strong similarities in human beings suggests that not only will C. elegans prove an invaluable model for understanding the fundamental biological changes seen during spaceflight but that it may also be invaluable for understanding those changes associated with human health concerns in space.
Spaceflight results in a number of adaptations to skeletal muscle, including atrophy and shifts toward faster muscle fiber types. To identify changes in gene expression that may underlie these adaptations, we used both microarray expression analysis and real-time polymerase chain reaction to quantify shifts in mRNA levels in the gastrocnemius from mice flown on the 11-day, 19-h STS-108 shuttle flight and from normal gravity controls. Spaceflight data also were compared with the ground-based unloading model of hindlimb suspension, with one group of pure suspension and one of suspension followed by 3.5 h of reloading to mimic the time between landing and euthanization of the spaceflight mice. Analysis of microarray data revealed that 272 mRNAs were significantly altered by spaceflight, the majority of which displayed similar responses to hindlimb suspension, whereas reloading tended to counteract these responses. Several mRNAs altered by spaceflight were associated with muscle growth, including the phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase regulatory subunit p85alpha, insulin response substrate-1, the forkhead box O1 transcription factor, and MAFbx/atrogin1. Moreover, myostatin mRNA expression tended to increase, whereas mRNA levels of the myostatin inhibitor FSTL3 tended to decrease, in response to spaceflight. In addition, mRNA levels of the slow oxidative fiber-associated transcriptional coactivator peroxisome proliferator-associated receptor (PPAR)-gamma coactivator-1alpha and the transcription factor PPAR-alpha were significantly decreased in spaceflight gastrocnemius. Finally, spaceflight resulted in a significant decrease in levels of the microRNA miR-206. Together these data demonstrate that spaceflight induces significant changes in mRNA expression of genes associated with muscle growth and fiber type.