Scientist believes that as soon as the astronauts reach The International Space Station that there is an expression of mostly protein-coding genes in basically white blood cells which is the reason why astronauts are more prone to infections while their stay in space.
Astronauts often suffer from skin rashes, along with respiratory or non-respiratory diseases. Space travel causes immune deficits in astronauts. Let’s see the causes for the same:
Dr Odette Laneuville, an associate professor at the Department of Biology of the University of Ottawa explained that “Here we show that the expression of many genes related to immune functions rapidly decreases when astronauts reach space, while the opposite happens when they return to Earth after six months aboard the ISS.”
The gene expression in leukocytes popularly known as white blood cells was studied by the researchers of a group of 14 astronauts that included 11 men and 3 women. They stayed in ISS anytime between 4.5 to 6.5 months during the years 2015 and 2019. The scientist found the isolation of Leukocytes from the blood amounting to 4 millimetres drawn from each astronaut at 10-time points. The measure was taken for different duration like once pre-flight, four times in a flight and while they were banked on Earth it was 5 times.
It was found that 15,410 genes were found to be differently expressed and formed two clusters with 247 and 29 respectively. The gene changed its expression in a random manner as per the given study period.
“A weaker immunity increases the risk of infectious diseases, limiting astronauts’ ability to perform their demanding missions in space. If an infection or an immune-related condition was to evolve to a severe state requiring medical care, astronauts while in space would have limited access to care, medication, or evacuation,” said Dr Guy Trudel, a rehabilitation physician and researcher at The Ottawa Hospital and professor at the Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine of the University of Ottawa.
The astronauts that returned suffered from the risk of catching infections for a minimum period of one month. The triggered shift is because of a ‘fluid shift’ that affects the blood plasma to be redistributed from the lower to the upper part of the body.
“The health of astronauts while in space, especially during long missions, would benefit from detecting both immune dysfunction and sub-clinical inflammation. Early detection provides opportunities for intervention, with the aim to prevent a progression towards severe symptoms.”