Gravity influences immunity

Print edition : November 16, 2012

NEW findings published by researchers from the University of Lorraine and the University of Luxembourg in The FASEB Journal show that immune system development is affected by changes in gravity. Stresses during launch and landing could disrupt astronauts natural defences against infection.

The researchers looked at how antibody production is affected when animal development occurs o -board a space station and which part of space travel has the greatest impact on antibodies, the proteins of the immune system that protect us from diseases. In order to do this, they sent embryos of the Iberian ribbed newt, Pleurodeles waltl, to the International Space Station before they started to develop IgM antibody, which is also found in humans and is the largest antibody that circulates in blood.

Upon landing, they were compared to embryos grown on the earth. Antibody mRNAs in space and earth newts were different. The IgM antibody was doubled at landing. Findings show that gravity changes during development affect antibodies and the regeneration of white blood cells, which are important in defending the body against infectious diseases. However, space flight did not affect newt development, nor did it cause inflammation.

Scientists believe that these changes could also occur in humans.

Stories by R. Ramachandran
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor