Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Scientist-astronaut sends T-cells into space

01.09.2006
Experiment designed to pinpoint which genes in immune cascade don’t turn on in zero-gee; earlier version was aboard STS-107, destroyed with shuttle Columbia

A former astronaut and researcher at the San Francisco VA Medical Center will be traveling to the Cosmodrome space-launch site at Baikonur, Kazakhstan, this Saturday, Sept. 2, 2006, to prepare a crucial experiment designed to demonstrate how human immune response is suppressed in the weightless environment of space.

Millie Hughes-Fulford, PhD, director of the Laboratory of Cell Growth at SFVAMC, scientific advisor to the Under Secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, and a payload specialist aboard space shuttle flight STS-40 in 1991, will send human T-cells up to the International Space Station aboard ISS Soyuz 13. That science mission, operated by the European Space Agency, is scheduled to launch from Baikonur between September 14 and September 18, 2006.

"We're doing this experiment because many astronauts are immunosuppressed during flight. Their T-cells stop working in microgravity," says Hughes-Fulford, who is also an adjunct professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. "This experiment will tell us for the first time exactly which genes involved in the normal immune response aren't activated in space."

T-cells are white blood cells that play a central role in the body's immune response. They are a target of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which suppresses them. When an HIV patient's T-cell count falls below 200, he or she is susceptible to the dangerous infections that are the symptoms of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS).

The problem of immunosuppression in microgravity was first noted during the Apollo moon mission series in the 1960s and 1970s, when 15 out of 29 Apollo astronauts developed infections during their missions or soon after landing. Subsequent experiments aboard Skylab and several space shuttle missions, including Fulford's, confirmed that T-cells do not activate properly in microgravity.

"In this experiment, we're looking at why they're not working," says Hughes-Fulford. "Normally, in order for T-cells to be activated, certain genes have to be expressed in a certain order, in what's called a signaling pathway. Aboard the ISS, we hope to find exactly which genes are not being expressed in microgravity."

The experiment will be carried to the International Space Station inside a specially designed incubator called Kubik, which was made to fit precisely under the cosmonaut's seat in the Soyuz spacecraft. Kubik contains a compartment for weightless experiments as well as a centrifuge that can accelerate cells in a range from 0.2 to 2 earth gravities.

On board the space station, European Space Agency astronaut-scientist Thomas Reiter will simultaneously activate T-cells in the weightless compartment and in the centrifuge for four hours. "By activating the cells, he'll be simulating the activation that normally occurs in response to infection," Hughes-Fulford explains. "He'll be setting up the whole cascade that would normally turn on the T-cells. Except we know that some of the genes will not turn on because they're in a weightless environment."

At the end of the experiment, the T-cells will be safely packaged and then sent back to Earth aboard the returning Soyuz craft. In her VA lab in San Francisco, Hughes-Fulford will analyze the results.

"Our expectation is that the T-cells in the centrifuge – basically, under artificial gravity – will be activated normally, and the T-cells in microgravity will not be activated," she predicts. "We will compare them side by side and discover, for the first time, exactly which genes did not turn on in microgravity."

Hughes-Fulford placed an earlier version of the same experiment aboard the space shuttle Columbia on shuttle mission STS-107. At the end of that mission on February 1, 2003, the Columbia broke up upon reentry into Earth's atmosphere, killing all seven crew members and destroying all experiments aboard.

"We cannot go to Mars, or even to the Moon over the long term, without knowing more about why T-cells are not working," says Hughes-Fulford. "When we learn that, we can start looking for possible treatments."

Steve Tokar | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.ucsf.edu/

Further reports about: Astronaut Hughes-Fulford T-cell microgravity weightless

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Newly designed molecule binds nitrogen
23.02.2018 | Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg

nachricht Atomic Design by Water
23.02.2018 | Max-Planck-Institut für Eisenforschung GmbH

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Attoseconds break into atomic interior

A newly developed laser technology has enabled physicists in the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics (jointly run by LMU Munich and the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics) to generate attosecond bursts of high-energy photons of unprecedented intensity. This has made it possible to observe the interaction of multiple photons in a single such pulse with electrons in the inner orbital shell of an atom.

In order to observe the ultrafast electron motion in the inner shells of atoms with short light pulses, the pulses must not only be ultrashort, but very...

Im Focus: Good vibrations feel the force

A group of researchers led by Andrea Cavalleri at the Max Planck Institute for Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) in Hamburg has demonstrated a new method enabling precise measurements of the interatomic forces that hold crystalline solids together. The paper Probing the Interatomic Potential of Solids by Strong-Field Nonlinear Phononics, published online in Nature, explains how a terahertz-frequency laser pulse can drive very large deformations of the crystal.

By measuring the highly unusual atomic trajectories under extreme electromagnetic transients, the MPSD group could reconstruct how rigid the atomic bonds are...

Im Focus: Developing reliable quantum computers

International research team makes important step on the path to solving certification problems

Quantum computers may one day solve algorithmic problems which even the biggest supercomputers today can’t manage. But how do you test a quantum computer to...

Im Focus: In best circles: First integrated circuit from self-assembled polymer

For the first time, a team of researchers at the Max-Planck Institute (MPI) for Polymer Research in Mainz, Germany, has succeeded in making an integrated circuit (IC) from just a monolayer of a semiconducting polymer via a bottom-up, self-assembly approach.

In the self-assembly process, the semiconducting polymer arranges itself into an ordered monolayer in a transistor. The transistors are binary switches used...

Im Focus: Demonstration of a single molecule piezoelectric effect

Breakthrough provides a new concept of the design of molecular motors, sensors and electricity generators at nanoscale

Researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS (IOCB Prague), Institute of Physics of the CAS (IP CAS) and Palacký University...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

2nd International Conference on High Temperature Shape Memory Alloys (HTSMAs)

15.02.2018 | Event News

Aachen DC Grid Summit 2018

13.02.2018 | Event News

How Global Climate Policy Can Learn from the Energy Transition

12.02.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Basque researchers turn light upside down

23.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Finnish research group discovers a new immune system regulator

23.02.2018 | Health and Medicine

Attoseconds break into atomic interior

23.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>