A new study focused on the effects of space flight on the human immune system, and the results give us hope for the future. For the study, experts used blood samples from 23 crew members who spent half a year at the International Space Station.
Researchers tested their blood before leaving, during the mission and after they returned to Earth. It appears that space travel does not affect the levels of B-cell immunity, which is good news. Until now it was believed that space flight has negative effects on the immune system.
The blood samples taken during the mission were sent back to our planet in Russian Soyuz descent capsules. The capsules landed in Kazakhstan, they were taken in Moscow and finally they reached the final destination, a lab located in Houston.
“This is the first study to comprehensively show that long-duration space flight in human astronauts has a limited effect on B-cell frequency and antibody production. Our results are good news for current astronauts aboard the ISS … and for all future astronauts who will attempt long-duration space missions,” explained Dr John Campbell, lecturer at the University of Bath.
Data for future missions
The results of this study will prove useful for upcoming missions. Scientists used to debate whether astronauts who make long trips into space need vaccines. Immunity is very important for astronauts, as they need to protect themselves against viruses and bacteria. It is a known fact that during space missions, astronauts can be more vulnerable.
“Long-duration orbital space flights are associated with increased levels of psychological stress, acute and chronic exposure to space radiation and microgravity-induced changes, all of which are known to detrimentally impact the immune system,” said Dr Guillaume Spielmann, from Louisiana State University.