Traveling beyond the surface of the earth can be a breathtakingexperience, and many thinks of such an opportunity as a golden chanceto travel by rockets. However, the experience comes with detrimentaleffects on the human immune system. The astronauts who travel inspace put their health at risk, while at the same time, makingmilestones in the history of human explorations. A report authoredin the Journal of Leukocyte Biology indicates that space liftweakens the immune system while at the same time strengthens variousmicrobes that affect the immune system. It is, therefore, a risk toan individual’s health and a limiting factor to the duration of thespace missions. There are also radiations present in the space beyondthe earth’s orbit that interfere with normal body function s andgene mutations. This paper will look at the effects of space lift onthe immune system by drawing supportive evidence from the work ofvarious authors with an interest in the field (Morukov et al. 129).
The human body fights unwanted elements that may result in illness.However, when the disease-causing microorganism exceeds the thresholdthat the body can fight, they result in body complications (Stanely).Researchers have identified the change of gravity as a facilitatingfactor for the growth of some disease-causing microorganisms. Somedisease-causing organisms intensify their growth in low gravity andsince some of them are present in the body, they increase the risk ofcausing infections. According to Mars One, a privateorganization that aims to take passengers to mass, the travelers arelikely to react differently when they are out of the earth’s orbit(Stanely). In their research that includes mice kept on normalgravitational condition, the specimen suffered the loss of Blymphocyte in their bone marrow gradually after leaving the earth’sorbit. A similar observation was recorded in elderly rodentssubjected to the same gravitational force. The changes taking placein the rodents are likely to occur in human beings exposed to similargravitational pull.
A research published in the Journal of Leukocyte Biology indicatesthat gravitational strength affects the T lymphocytes. T cells areresponsible for the destruction of infected cells and the activationof the immune cells (Cogoli 260). A study conducted in the UnitedStates Space Lab to investigate the effect of hypergravity andhypogravity on the T cells discovered that gravitational strength isdirectly proportional to the development of T lymphocytes. Thespecimen subjected to low gravity showed suppressed growth of Tlymphocytes while those in high gravity exhibited an acceleratedgrowth. The research concludes that people traveling to space risk asuppressed growth and functioning of the T lymphocytes andconsequently reduced destruction of the infected cells. The immunecells will also lack an activation factor due to the suppressedactivity of the T lymphocytes. The presence of disease-causingmicroorganisms in the body might not result in active engagement ofthe immunity cells die to their inactivity. The absence or low levelsof the T cells that act as the stimulant makes them inactive. Thegravitational strength of the earth is about 9.8 while that of Marsis 3.7. Therefore, astronauts and other space explorers going to massare likely to reduce the function and development of their T cells byhalf (Cogoli 260).
In a similar study in the HMP research station on DevonIsland in the Canadian high Arctic exhibited almost similar results.Ten participants, who took part in the experience in the arcticdesert, were tested for peripheral immunophenotype. The environmentreflected the space environment in several ways. First, thescientists subjected the crew to a long travel to the Devon Islandthat took several days and a week of stay. The environment isrelatively polar and desert-like. It is the only true polar desert inthe world (Crucian, Lee, Stowe, Jones, Effenhauser, Widen, and Sams7). The crew also experienced disrupted cardiac function for the 24our-days experienced in the Devon Island. It was also a psychologicalexperience because they were away from the rest of the humanpopulation since the desert is inhabitable. They also performedsimilar activities expected to those who visit Mars includingexploration, fieldwork and EVA (Crucian et al. 7). It was, therefore,an exemplary analog experiment on the ground.
During the mid-mission, their mean percentage for the leukocytesubsets, lymphocytes, and Tells did not exhibit any significantchanges. However, during the end of the mission, the number of Tcells in each was taken. There was a significant change in theinitial number recorded before and at the end of the mission. Itaffirms the premise that an extended exposure to low gravity areasreduces the number of T cells sin the body significantly. Thescientists also tested for the Intracellular Cytokine analysis on theproduction by the CD4+ and CD8+ in mid-mission (Crucian et al. 7).The results showed a significant decline compared with the initialquantities recorded before the start of the mission.
Researchers have also been reviewing the changes that occur in theexpression of antibodies because of gravitational change. Preliminaryresults show that under low gravity. The expression of the antibodiesbecomes influenced, and there are high possibilities for them to betagged for destruction while they do not deserve (Scuiletti). Theresearchers found out that long-term space lifts were mostinfluential to the antibodies’ expression. Antibodies fightinfections in the body. After being spent, they are destroyed to giveroom for others to be ready for action. However, the destruction ofhealthy antibodies puts the boy at risk of infection due to thereduced ability to fight the disease-causing microorganism (Morukovet al. 127).
In a simulation study to identify the effects of gravity on theinnate system, scientists and the Russian Academy of BiomedicalSciences subjected six crew members to a controlled environment thatreflected the condition in Mars. The innate immunity is responsiblefor the suppression of pathogens and activation of the immuneresponse. The effectors of the innate immunity work with theassistance of the particular and genetically encoded patternrecognition receptors commonly abbreviated as PRR (Stanely). Theycarry the evolutionary memory that makes it possible to differentiatebetween the microorganisms that belong t the body and the aliens.After 520-day simulation program, the crew member exhibited changesin their PRRs. Their role in an early identification of the alienmicroorganisms in the body, therefore, significantly reduced (Crucianet al. 7).
Research also attributes space lift with increased susceptibility todisease. The function of the human immune system while on the groundbefore entering simulated environment with different gravitationalstrengths shows a variation in its ability to protect the boy frominfections. Researchers have been observing the reaction of latentviruses in crew members mainly in simulated tests. In-flight testingshows that latent herpes shoots up during space lift with shortdurations. The herpes viruses remain in the body in insignificantamount cause infections. However, during space lifts lasting for ashort time they inflate to the threshold of causing infection in thebody.However, there is no documented research to show if thenumber remains significant in long flights because research showsthat the body opts gradually to the new environment and tries toalign its systems to reflect the new environment. Therefore, there isa relationship between the change of gravity and some latent virusesstored in the body. They may increase to reach the threshold requiredto cause infections.
In addition, published data strongly suggest that there is anintricate relationship between Immune Dysregulation and space liftregardless of the duration of the experience. Although there islimited research on the actual causes of Dysregulation because ofspace lift, research attributes it to psychological stress, change ofgravity and disrupted cardiac functions. Besides, it occurs due toaltering radiations, nutrition and the alteration in the generalenvironment (Cogoli 262). Dysregulation of the immune system in thecrew members exploring space has put the National SpaceAdministration on its toes to come up with the clinical implicationsof these changes and develop countermeasures that would assist thebody to adapt to the altered environment in the shortest timepossible.
Other studies show that the body’s ability to fight diseasedecreases for some disease causing micro-organism during Space liftdue to the increased strength and antibiotic resistance. Low gravityenvironment results in an increased production of Escherichia Colitoxins (Cogoli 264). They alter the gene expression of SalmonellaTyphimurium that increase virulence. Also, the radiation experiencebeyond the earth’s orbit has a significant effect on the genemutations. The radiation beyond the orbit accelerates gene mutations,and this increases the rate at which microbes develop resistance toantibiotics. The ability of the antibiotics to finght infctionsremains constant even in the alien environment. Therefore, the rateat which the body fights the micro-organisms slows. The concentrationof antibiotics that could be sufficient on the surface of the earthmay not suffice to control such an accelerated mutation (Cogoli 264).
These changes in the immune system because of space lift arecontrollable as various researchers put it. The antioxidants found inthe fruits can be instrumental in protecting the body against theradiations experienced outside the earth’s orbit. They would helpthe body in controlling the exaggerated mutations of microbes and,therefore, stabilize the body’s ability to react. Nucleotidesupplements and AHCC compounds from mushrooms are also primarysupplements that enable the function of the immune system (Cogoli262). Body exercise improves the production of antibodies as, and itis, therefore, recommended for those traveling in space.
In conclusion, there are plans to transport people to Mars in largenumbers by 2030. The organization planning the visits should orientthemselves with the health effects associated with space lift toavoid putting the lives of others in danger. The impact on the immunesystem may weaken the body and may lead to a consequential death ifthe organizing agencies are oblivious of the danger that looms inspace travel. Although there is a limited number of a publishedresult of far-reaching effects on the immune system, the analog, andsimulations conducted in the different labs that the body graduallyweakens therefore, uncontrolled forces may weaken the body when thestays become long.
However, these effects will not maim the exploration of humankindinto space. NASA and other research agencies are still conductingresearch on how to counter the clinical effects of the changesbrought by space lift on the immune system. Health professionalidentify antioxidants and nucleotide supplements as having thecapacity to protect the body from the adverse effects of radiation(Stanely). Physical activity also increases antibodies, and it is arecommendation for space travelers. The ongoing research is likely tocome with comprehensive measures to arm space travelers to boosttheir immune system even on extended tours.
Stanely, Sarah. “Immunological Risks of Spaceflight CouldCompromise Mars Missions.” Journal of Young Investigators,2010. Web. 26 Nov. 2015.
Morukov, BV, RykovaM.P., Antropova E.N., Berendeeva T.A., Morukov I.B., Ponomarev S.A."Immunological Aspects of a Space Flight to Mars." HumanPhysiology 39.2 (2013): 126-135. Print.DOI: 10.1134/S0362119713020102.
Scuiletti,Justin. “DoesSpaceflight Accelerate Immune System Aging?” PBSNews Hour2 Feb. 2015. Web. 26 Nov. 2015.
Crucian, Brian,Pascal Lee, Raymond Stowe, Jeff Jones, Rainer Effenhauser, RaymondWiden, Clarence Sams. “Immune System changes during SimulatedPlanetary Exploration on Devon Island, high arctic." BMCImmunology 8.1 (2007): 7. Print. DOI: 10.1186/1471-2172-8-7.
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