Research may clarify why astronauts’ T cells develop into much less efficient at preventing an infection

A brand new examine led by researchers at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden has examined how T cells of the immune system are affected by weightlessness. The outcomes, that are revealed within the journal Science Advances, may clarify why astronauts’ T cells develop into much less energetic and fewer efficient at preventing an infection.

The subsequent steps within the exploration of area are human missions to the moon and to Mars. House is an especially hostile atmosphere that poses threats to human well being. One such menace is modifications to the immune system that happen in astronauts whereas in area and that persist after their return to Earth. This immune deficiency can depart them extra susceptible to an infection and result in the reactivation of latent viruses within the physique.

If astronauts are to have the ability to bear secure area missions, we have to perceive how their immune techniques are affected and attempt to discover methods to counter dangerous modifications to it. We have now been capable of examine what occurs to T cells, that are a key part of the immune system, when uncovered to weightless situations.”

Lisa Westerberg, examine chief, principal researcher, Division of Microbiology, Tumor and Cell Biology, Karolinska Institutet

Within the examine, the researchers have tried to simulate weightlessness in area utilizing a way referred to as dry immersion. This entails a custom-made waterbed that tips the physique into considering it’s in a weightless state. The researchers examined T cells within the blood of eight wholesome people for 3 weeks of publicity to simulated weightlessness. Blood analyses had been carried out earlier than the experiment began, at 7, 14 and 21 days after the beginning, and at 7 days after the experiment ended.

They discovered that the T cells considerably modified their gene expression – that’s to say, which genes had been energetic and which weren’t – after 7 and 14 days of weightlessness and that the cells turned extra immature of their genetic programme. The best impact was seen after 14 days.

“The T cells started to resemble extra so-called naïve T cells, which haven’t but encountered any intruders. This might imply that they take longer to be activated and thus develop into much less efficient at preventing tumour cells and infections. Our outcomes can pave the way in which for brand spanking new therapies that reverse these modifications to the immune cells’ genetic programme,” says Carlos Gallardo Dodd, PhD scholar on the Division of Microbiology, Tumor and Cell Biology, Karolinska Institutet and shared first creator with researchers Christian Oertlin and Julien Report on the identical division.

After 21 days, the T cells had “tailored” their gene expression to weightlessness in order that it had nearly returned to regular, however analyses carried out seven days after the experiment ended confirmed that the cells had regained a few of the modifications.

The researchers now plan to make use of Esrange House Centre’s sounding rocket platform in Kiruna, Sweden, to review how T cells behave in weightless situations and the way their operate is affected.

The examine was financed by the Swedish Nationwide House Company, the Swedish Analysis Council and Karolinska Institutet and was performed in shut collaboration with Claudia Kutter’s analysis group at Karolinska Institutet/SciLifeLab and collaboration companions at IBMP Moscow and New York College Abu Dhabi.


Journal reference:

Gallardo-Dodd, C. J., et al. (2023) Publicity of volunteers to microgravity by dry immersion mattress over 21 days ends in gene expression modifications and adaptation of T cells. Science Advances.

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