Spaceflight modulates gene expression in the whole blood of astronauts.
ABSTRACT: Astronauts are exposed to a unique combination of stressors during spaceflight, which leads to alterations in their physiology and potentially increases their susceptibility to disease, including infectious diseases. To evaluate the potential impact of the spaceflight environment on the regulation of molecular pathways mediating cellular stress responses, we performed a first-of-its-kind pilot study to assess spaceflight-related gene-expression changes in the whole blood of astronauts. Using an array comprised of 234 well-characterized stress-response genes, we profiled transcriptomic changes in six astronauts (four men and two women) from blood preserved before and immediately following the spaceflight. Differentially regulated transcripts included those important for DNA repair, oxidative stress, and protein folding/degradation, including HSP90AB1, HSP27, GPX1, XRCC1, BAG-1, HHR23A, FAP48, and C-FOS. No gender-specific differences or relationship to number of missions flown was observed. This study provides a first assessment of transcriptomic changes occurring in the whole blood of astronauts in response to spaceflight.
Project description:Astronauts are exposed to a unique combination of stressors during spaceflight, which leads to alterations in their physiology and potentially increases their susceptibility to infectious pathogens. Here we report the first microarray evaluation of any astronaut tissue sample, specifically whole blood, before and after spaceflight using an array comprising 234 well-characterized stress response genes. Differentially regulated genes included those important for DNA repair, oxidative stress, and protein folding/degradation. Microarrays comprising 234 well characterized stress-related genes were used to profile transcriptomic changes in six astronauts before and after short-duration spaceflight. Blood samples were collected for analysis from each eastronaut 10 days prior and 2-3 hours after return from spaceflight. Data submitted for platform GPL140 contain genes that have been pre-filtered by the analytical software to remove values of low certainty, resulting in missing values for some samples. Unfortunately, these original data are no longer available due to physical damage at Tulane University during hurricane Katrina, but the processed values were retained in redundant locations and these are submitted for upload to GEO.
Project description:Spaceflight introduces a combination of environmental stressors, including microgravity, ionizing radiation, changes in diet and altered atmospheric gas composition. In order to understand the impact of each environmental component on astronauts it is important to investigate potential influences in isolation. Rodent spaceflight experiments involve both standard vivarium cages and animal enclosure modules (AEMs), which are cages used to house rodents in spaceflight. Ground control AEMs are engineered to match the spaceflight environment. There are limited studies examining the biological response invariably due to the configuration of AEM and vivarium housing. To investigate the innate global transcriptomic patterns of rodents housed in spaceflight-matched AEM compared to standard vivarium cages we utilized publicly available data from the NASA GeneLab repository. Using a systems biology approach, we observed that AEM housing was associated with significant transcriptomic differences, including reduced metabolism, altered immune responses, and activation of possible tumorigenic pathways. Although we did not perform any functional studies, our findings revealed a mild hypoxic phenotype in AEM, possibly due to atmospheric carbon dioxide that was increased to match conditions in spaceflight. Our investigation illustrates the process of generating new hypotheses and informing future experimental research by repurposing multiple space-flown datasets.
Project description:Sleep deprivation and fatigue are common subjective complaints among astronauts. Previous studies of sleep and hypnotic drug use in space have been limited to post-flight subjective survey data or in-flight objective data collection from a small number of crew members. We aimed to characterise representative sleep patterns of astronauts on both short-duration and long-duration spaceflight missions.For this observational study, we recruited crew members assigned to Space Transportation System shuttle flights with in-flight experiments between July 12, 2001, and July 21, 2011, or assigned to International Space Station (ISS) expeditions between Sept 18, 2006, and March 16, 2011. We assessed sleep-wake timing objectively via wrist actigraphy, and subjective sleep characteristics and hypnotic drug use via daily logs, in-flight and during Earth-based data-collection intervals: for 2 weeks scheduled about 3 months before launch, 11 days before launch until launch day, and for 7 days upon return to Earth.We collected data from 64 astronauts on 80 space shuttle missions (26 flights, 1063 in-flight days) and 21 astronauts on 13 ISS missions (3248 in-flight days), with ground-based data from all astronauts (4014 days). Crew members attempted and obtained significantly less sleep per night as estimated by actigraphy during space shuttle missions (7·35 h [SD 0·47] attempted, 5·96 h [0·56] obtained), in the 11 days before spaceflight (7·35 h [0·51], 6·04 h [0·72]), and about 3 months before spaceflight (7·40 h [0·59], 6·29 h [0·67]) compared with the first week post-mission (8·01 h [0·78], 6·74 h [0·91]; p<0·0001 for both measures). Crew members on ISS missions obtained significantly less sleep during spaceflight (6·09 h [0·67]), in the 11 days before spaceflight (5·86 h [0·94]), and during the 2-week interval scheduled about 3 months before spaceflight (6·41 h [SD 0·65]) compared with in the first week post-mission (6·95 h [1·04]; p<0·0001). 61 (78%) of 78 shuttle-mission crew members reported taking a dose of sleep-promoting drug on 500 (52%) of 963 nights; 12 (75%) of 16 ISS crew members reported using sleep-promoting drugs.Sleep deficiency in astronauts was prevalent not only during space shuttle and ISS missions, but also throughout a 3 month preflight training interval. Despite chronic sleep curtailment, use of sleep-promoting drugs was pervasive during spaceflight. Because chronic sleep loss leads to performance decrements, our findings emphasise the need for development of effective countermeasures to promote sleep.The National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
Project description:While it has been shown that astronauts suffer immune disorders after spaceflight, the underlying causes are still poorly understood and there are many variables to consider when investigating the immune system in a complex environment. Additionally, there is growing evidence that suggests that not only is the immune system being altered, but the pathogens that infect the host are significantly influenced by spaceflight and ground-based spaceflight conditions. In this study, we demonstrate that Serratia marcescens (strain Db11) was significantly more lethal to Drosophila melanogaster after growth on the International Space Station than ground-based controls, but the increased virulence phenotype of S. marcescens did not persist after the bacterial cultures were passaged on the ground. Increased virulence was also observed in bacteria that were grown in simulated microgravity conditions on the ground using the rotating wall vessel. Increased virulence of the space-flown bacteria was similar in magnitude between wild-type flies and those that were mutants for the well-characterized immune pathways Imd and Toll, suggesting that changes to the host immune system after infection are likely not a major factor contributing towards increased susceptibility of ground-reared flies infected with space-flown bacteria. Characterization of the bacteria shows that at later timepoints spaceflight bacteria grew at a greater rate than ground controls in vitro, and in the host. These results suggest complex physiological changes occurring in pathogenic bacteria in space environments, and there may be novel mechanisms mediating these physiological effects that need to be characterized.
Project description:Increased oxidative stress is an unavoidable consequence of exposure to the space environment. Our previous studies showed that mice exposed to space for 13.5 days had decreased glutathione levels, suggesting impairments in oxidative defense. Here we performed unbiased, unsupervised and integrated multi-'omic analyses of metabolomic and transcriptomic datasets from mice flown aboard the Space Shuttle Atlantis. Enrichment analyses of metabolite and gene sets showed significant changes in osmolyte concentrations and pathways related to glycerophospholipid and sphingolipid metabolism, likely consequences of relative dehydration of the spaceflight mice. However, we also found increased enrichment of aminoacyl-tRNA biosynthesis and purine metabolic pathways, concomitant with enrichment of genes associated with autophagy and the ubiquitin-proteasome. When taken together with a downregulation in nuclear factor (erythroid-derived 2)-like 2-mediated signaling, our analyses suggest that decreased hepatic oxidative defense may lead to aberrant tRNA post-translational processing, induction of degradation programs and senescence-associated mitochondrial dysfunction in response to the spaceflight environment.
Project description:Reactivation of latent herpes viruses was measured in 23 astronauts (18 male and 5 female) before, during, and after long-duration (up to 180 days) spaceflight onboard the international space station . Twenty age-matched and sex-matched healthy ground-based subjects were included as a control group. Blood, urine, and saliva samples were collected before, during, and after spaceflight. Saliva was analyzed for Epstein-Barr virus, varicella-zoster virus, and herpes simplex virus type 1. Urine was analyzed for cytomegalovirus. One astronaut did not shed any targeted virus in samples collected during the three mission phases. Shedding of Epstein-Barr virus, varicella-zoster virus, and cytomegalovirus was detected in 8 of the 23 astronauts. These viruses reactivated independently of each other. Reactivation of Epstein-Barr virus, varicella-zoster virus, and cytomegalovirus increased in frequency, duration, and amplitude (viral copy numbers) when compared to short duration (10 to 16 days) space shuttle missions. No evidence of reactivation of herpes simplex virus type 1, herpes simplex virus type 2, or human herpes virus 6 was found. The mean diurnal trajectory of salivary cortisol changed significantly during flight as compared to before flight (P?=?0.010). There was no statistically significant difference in levels of plasma cortisol or dehydoepiandosterone concentrations among time points before, during, and after flight for these international space station crew members, although observed cortisol levels were lower at the mid and late-flight time points. The data confirm that astronauts undertaking long-duration spaceflight experience both increased latent viral reactivation and changes in diurnal trajectory of salivary cortisol concentrations.
Project description:A round-trip human mission to Mars is anticipated to last roughly three years. Spaceflight conditions are known to cause loss of bone mineral density (BMD) in astronauts, increasing bone fracture risk. There is an urgent need to understand BMD progression as a function of spaceflight time to minimize associated health implications and ensure mission success. Here we introduce a nonlinear mathematical model of BMD loss for candidate human missions to Mars: (i) Opposition class trajectory (400-600 days), and (ii) Conjunction class trajectory (1000-1200 days). Using femoral neck BMD data (N = 69) from astronauts after 132-day and 228-day spaceflight and the World Health Organization's fracture risk recommendation, we predicted post-mission risk and associated osteopathology. Our model predicts 62% opposition class astronauts and 100% conjunction class astronauts will develop osteopenia, with 33% being at risk for osteoporosis. This model can help in implementing countermeasure strategies and inform space agencies' choice of crew candidates.
Project description:Adaptation to the space environment can sometimes pose physiological problems to International Space Station (ISS) astronauts after their return to earth. Therefore, it is important to develop healthcare technologies for astronauts. In this study, we examined the feasibility of using hair follicles, a readily obtained sample, to assess gene expression changes in response to spaceflight adaptation. In order to investigate the gene expression changes in human hair follicles during spaceflight, hair follicles of 10 astronauts were analyzed by microarray and real time qPCR analyses. We found that spaceflight alters human hair follicle gene expression. The degree of changes in gene expression was found to vary among individuals. In some astronauts, genes related to hair growth such as FGF18, ANGPTL7 and COMP were upregulated during flight, suggesting that spaceflight inhibits cell proliferation in hair follicles.
Project description:Spaceflight has several detrimental effects on the physiology of astronauts, many of which are recapitulated in rodent models. Mouse studies performed on the Space Shuttle showed disruption of lipid metabolism in liver. However, given that these animals were not sacrificed on-orbit and instead returned live to earth, it is unclear if these disruptions were solely induced by space stressors (e.g. microgravity, space radiation) or in part explained by the stress of return to Earth. In this work we analyzed three liver datasets from two different strains of mice (C57BL/6 (Jackson) & BALB/c (Taconic)) flown aboard the International Space Station (ISS). Notably, these animals were sacrificed on-orbit and exposed to varying spaceflight durations (i.e. 21, 37, and 42 days vs 13 days for the Shuttle mice). Oil Red O (ORO) staining showed abnormal lipid accumulation in all space-flown mice compared to ground controls regardless of strain or exposure duration. Similarly, transcriptomic analysis by RNA-sequencing revealed several pathways that were affected in both strains related to increased lipid metabolism, fatty acid metabolism, lipid and fatty acid processing, lipid catabolic processing, and lipid localization. In addition, key upstream regulators were predicted to be commonly regulated across all conditions including Glucagon (GCG) and Insulin (INS). Moreover, quantitative proteomic analysis showed that a number of lipid related proteins were changed in the livers during spaceflight. Taken together, these data indicate that activation of lipotoxic pathways are the result of space stressors alone and this activation occurs in various genetic backgrounds during spaceflight exposures of weeks to months. If similar responses occur in humans, a prolonged change of these pathways may result in the development of liver disease and should be investigated further.
Project description:Exposure to microgravity causes alterations in multiple physiological systems, potentially impacting the ability of astronauts to perform critical mission tasks. The goal of this study was to determine the effects of spaceflight on functional task performance and to identify the key physiological factors contributing to their deficits.A test battery comprised of seven functional tests and 15 physiological measures was used to investigate the sensorimotor, cardiovascular, and neuromuscular adaptations to spaceflight. Astronauts were tested before and after 6-month spaceflights. Subjects were also tested before and after 70 d of 6° head-down bed rest, a spaceflight analog, to examine the role of axial body unloading on the spaceflight results. These subjects included control and exercise groups to examine the effects of exercise during bed rest.Spaceflight subjects showed the greatest decrement in performance during functional tasks that required the greatest demand for dynamic control of postural equilibrium which was paralleled by similar decrements in sensorimotor tests that assessed postural and dynamic gait control. Other changes included reduced lower limb muscle performance and increased HR to maintain blood pressure. Exercise performed during bed rest prevented detrimental change in neuromuscular and cardiovascular function; however, both bed rest groups experienced functional and balance deficits similar to spaceflight subjects.Bed rest data indicate that body support unloading experienced during spaceflight contributes to postflight postural control dysfunction. Further, the bed rest results in the exercise group of subjects confirm that resistance and aerobic exercises performed during spaceflight can play an integral role in maintaining neuromuscular and cardiovascular functions, which can help in reducing decrements in functional performance. These results indicate that a countermeasure to mitigate postflight postural control dysfunction is required to maintain functional performance.