Healthy immune function depends on precise regulation of lymphocyte activation. During the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Apollo and Shuttle eras, multiple spaceflight studies showed depressed lymphocyte activity under microgravity (mug) conditions. Scientists on the ground use two models of simulated mug (smug): 1) the rotating wall vessel (RWV) and 2) the random positioning machine (RPM), to study the effects of altered gravity on cell function before advancing research to the true mug when spaceflight opportunities become available on the International Space Station (ISS). The objective of this study is to compare the effects of true mug and smug on the expression of key early T-cell activation genes in mouse splenocytes from spaceflight and ground animals. For the first time, we compared all three conditions of microgravity spaceflight, RPM, and RWV during immune gene activation of Il2, Il2ralpha, Ifngamma, and Tagap; moreover, we confirm two new early T-cell activation genes, Iigp1 and Slamf1. Gene expression for all samples was analyzed using quantitative real-time PCR (qRT-PCR). Our results demonstrate significantly increased gene expression in activated ground samples with suppression of mouse immune function in spaceflight, RPM, and RWV samples. These findings indicate that smug models provide an excellent test bed for scientists to develop baseline studies and augment true mug in spaceflight experiments. Ultimately, smug and spaceflight studies in lymphocytes may provide insight into novel regulatory pathways, benefiting both future astronauts and those here on earth suffering from immune disorders.
Research Containing: Ground studies
The effect of spaceflight on mouse olfactory bulb volume, neurogenesis, and cell death indicates the protective effect of novel environment
Space missions necessitate physiological and psychological adaptations to environmental factors not present on Earth, some of which present significant risks for the central nervous system (CNS) of crewmembers. One CNS region of interest is the adult olfactory bulb (OB), as OB structure and function are sensitive to environmental- and experience-induced regulation. It is currently unknown how the OB is altered by spaceflight. In this study, we evaluated OB volume and neurogenesis in mice shortly after a 13-day flight on Space Shuttle Atlantis [Space Transport System (STS)-135] relative to two groups of control mice maintained on Earth. Mice housed on Earth in animal enclosure modules that mimicked the conditions onboard STS-135 (AEM-Ground mice) had greater OB volume relative to mice maintained in standard housing on Earth (Vivarium mice), particularly in the granule (GCL) and glomerular (GL) cell layers. AEM-Ground mice also had more OB neuroblasts and fewer apoptotic cells relative to Vivarium mice. However, the AEM-induced increase in OB volume and neurogenesis was not seen in STS-135 mice (AEM-Flight mice), suggesting that spaceflight may have negated the positive effects of the AEM. In fact, when OB volume of AEM-Flight mice was considered, there was a greater density of apoptotic cells relative to AEM-Ground mice. Our findings suggest that factors present during spaceflight have opposing effects on OB size and neurogenesis, and provide insight into potential strategies to preserve OB structure and function during future space missions.