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.
Research Containing: Space Flight
The Constrained Vapor Bubble (CVB) Experiment in the Microgravity Environment of the International Space Station
The Constrained Vapor Bubble (CVB) experiment was run in the microgravity environment of the International Space Station as part of the Increment 23-24 which ended in September 2010. Here we present preliminary results which indicate significant differences in the operation of the CVB heat pipe in the micro-gravity environment as compared to the Earth's gravity. The temperature profile data along the heat pipe indicate that the heat pipe behavior is affected favorably by increased capillary flow and adversely by the absence of convective heat transfer as a heat loss mechanism. Image data of the liquid profile in the grooves of the heat pipe indicate that the curvature gradient is considerably different from that on Earth. An initial discussion of the data collected is presented.
Analysis of possible causes of activation of gastric and the pancreatic excretory and incretory function after completion of space flight at the international space station
A comparative analysis of the excretory and incretory activity of the stomach and pancreas in astronauts soon after completion of space flights of various durations was performed. An increase in the fasting activity of gastric and pancreatic enzymes and hormones (insulin and C-peptide) in blood, reflecting the increased excretory and incretory activity of organs of the gastroduodenal region developing in microgravity, was demonstrated. The absence of subjects infected with Helicobacter pylori in the space flight crew excluded the involvement of this microorganism in the mechanism underlying the increase in the gastric secretory activity. The absence of correlation between the increase in the secretory activity of organs of the gastroduodenal region and the duration of the space flight allowed us to rule out the hypokinetic mechanism, which is associated with the duration of exposure to microgravity. It was concluded that the main mechanism underlying the changes in the functional state of the digestive system in space flight may be determined by the rearrangement of the venous hemodynamics of organs of the abdominal cavity, unrelated to the duration of exposure to microgravity. It was shown that, after completion of space flights and in ground-based experiments simulating the hemodynamic rearrangement occurring in microgravity, the increase in the basal excretory activity of gastroduodenal organs was not caused by gastrin secretion and occurred simultaneously with an increase in the secretion of insulin, which is considered as a putative hormonal component of the hemodynamic mechanism.
The present suite of advanced space plant cultivation facilities require a significant level of resources to launch and maintain in flight. The facilities are designed to accommodate a broad size range of plant species and are, therefore, not configured to support the specific growth requirements of small plant species such as Arabidopsis thaliana at maximum efficiency with respect to mass and power. The facilities are equally not configured to support automated plant harvesting or tissue processing procedures, but rely on crew intervention and time. The recent reorganization of both spaceflight opportunities and allocation of limited in-flight resources demand that experiments be conducted with optimal efficiency. The emergence of A. thaliana as a dominant space flight model organism utilized in research on vegetative and reproductive phase biology provides strong justification for the establishment of a dedicated cultivation system for this species. This paper presents work on the design of a small plant cultivation facility directed at supporting research on the vegetative growth phase of A. thaliana . The design of the facility is based on the use of existing space flight hardware, and configured to support the fully automated germination of seed, cultivation of plants, and final termination of plant growth by chemical fixation and preservation of plant tissue.
Constraints in both launch opportunities and the availability of in-flight resources for Shuttle and Space Station life science habitat facilities has presented a compelling impetus to improve the operational flexibility, efficiency and miniaturization of many of these systems. Such advances would not only invigorate the level of research being conducted in low Earth orbit but also present the opportunity to expand life science studies to outer space and planetary bodies. Work has been directed towards the development of a miniature plant cultivation module (PCM) capable of supporting the automated and controlled growth and spectral monitoring of small plant species such as Arabidopsis thaliana. This paper will present data on the operational performance and efficiency of the cultivation module, and the extent to which such a system may be used to support plant growth studies in low Earth orbit and beyond.
Microgravity and hypergravity effects on fertilization of the salamander Pleurodeles waltl (urodele amphibian)
Effects of microgravity (microG) on fertilization were studied in the urodele amphibian Pleurodeles waltl on board the MIR space station. Genetic and cytomorphologic analyses ruled out parthenogenesis or gynogenesis and proved that fertilization did occur in microG. Actual fertilization was demonstrated by the analysis of the distribution of peptidase-1 genes, a polymorphic sex-linked enzyme, in progenies obtained in microG. Further evidence of fertilization was provided by the presence of spermatozoa in the perivitelline space and in the fertilization layer of the microG eggs and by the presence of a female pronucleus and male pronuclei in the egg cytoplasm. Experiments in microG and in 1.4G, 2G, and 3G hypergravity showed for the first time that, compared to eggs in 1G, several characteristics of the fertilization process including the cortical reaction and the microvillus transformations were altered depending on the gravitational force applied to the eggs. Microvillus elevation, the most evident feature, was reduced on microG-eggs and amplified on eggs submitted to 2G and 3G. No lethal consequences of these alterations on the early development of microG-eggs were observed.
Reinterpretation of mouse thyroid changes under space conditions: the contribution of confinement to damage
During space missions, astronauts work in a state of separation from their daily social environment and in physical confinement. It has been shown that confinement influences mood and brain cortical activity, but no data has been obtained with regard to its effect on the thyroid gland, the structure and function of which change during spaceflights. Here, we report the results of a study on the effects of confinement on mouse thyroid, which was implemented with the Mice Drawer System Facility maintained on the ground, a system used for spaceflight experiments. The results show that confinement changes the microscopic structure of the thyroid gland and that it exhibits symptoms similar to those that result from physiological and/or pathological hyperfunction. What is left unchanged, however, is the sphingomyelinase-thyrotropin receptor relationship, which is important for thyrotropin response with a consequential production of hormones that act on the metabolism of almost all tissues and reduces the production of calcitonin, a hormone involved in bone metabolism. During space missions, the overexpression of pleiotrophin, a widespread cytokine up-regulated after tissue injury that acts on bone remodeling, attenuates changes to the thyroid that are spaceflight-dependent; therefore we studied the thyroids of pleiotrophin-transgenic mice in the Mice Drawer System Facility. In confinement, pleiotrophin overexpression does not protect from the loss of calcitonin. The contribution of confinement to thyroid damage during spaceflights is discussed.
Loss of parafollicular cells during gravitational changes (microgravity, hypergravity) and the secret effect of pleiotrophin
It is generally known that bone loss is one of the most important complications for astronauts who are exposed to long-term microgravity in space. Changes in blood flow, systemic hormones, and locally produced factors were indicated as important elements contributing to the response of osteoblastic cells to loading, but research in this field still has many questions. Here, the possible biological involvement of thyroid C cells is being investigated. The paper is a comparison between a case of a wild type single mouse and a over-expressing pleiotrophin single mouse exposed to hypogravity conditions during the first animal experiment of long stay in International Space Station (91 days) and three similar mice exposed to hypergravity (2Gs) conditions. We provide evidence that both microgravity and hypergravity induce similar loss of C cells with reduction of calcitonin production. Pleiotrophin over-expression result in some protection against negative effects of gravity change. Potential implication of the gravity mechanic forces in the regulation of bone homeostasis via thyroid equilibrium is discussed.
Observing the mouse thyroid sphingomyelin under space conditions: a case study from the MDS mission in comparison with hypergravity conditions
This is a case report of apparent thyroid structural and functional alteration in a single mouse subjected to low Earth orbit spaceflight for 91 days. Histological examination of the thyroid gland revealed an increase in the average follicle size compared to that of three control animals and three animals exposed to hypergravity (2g) conditions. Immunoblotting analysis detected an increase in two thyroid gland enzymes, sphingomyelinase and sphingomyelin-synthase1. In addition, sphingomyelinase, an enzyme confined to the cell nucleus in the control animals, was found in the mouse exposed to hypogravity to be homogeneously distributed throughout the cell bodies. It represents the first animal observation of the influence of weightlessness on sphingomyelin metabolism.
Hematologic studies were performed on 21 ground control rats and 21 rats flown during the Spacelab Life Sciences-2 14-day mission. Group A (n = 5) was used to collect blood in flight and 9 days postflight, group B (n = 5) was injected with recombinant human erythropoietin (rhEpo), group C (n = 5) received saline as a control, and group D (n = 6) was killed in flight and tissues were collected. Results indicated no significant changes in peripheral blood erythroid elements between flight and ground control rats. The nonadherent bone marrow on flight day 13 showed a lower number of recombinant rat interleukin-3 (rrIL-3)-responsive and rrIL-3 + rhEpo-responsive blast-forming unit erythroid (BFU-e) colonies in flight rats compared with ground control rats. On landing day, a slight increase in the number of rhEpo + rrIL-3-responsive BFU-e colonies of flight animals compared with ground control rats was evident. Nine days postflight, bone marrow from flight rats stimulated with rhEpo alone or with rhEpo + rrIL-3 showed an increase in the number of colony-forming unit erythroid colonies and a decrease in BFU-e colonies compared with ground control rats. This is the first time that animals were injected with rhEpo and subsequently blood and tissues were collected during the spaceflight to study the regulation of erythropoiesis in microgravity.