Spaceflight associated neuro-ocular syndrome (SANS) and the neuro-ophthalmologic effects of microgravity: a review and an update.
ABSTRACT: Prolonged microgravity exposure during long-duration spaceflight (LDSF) produces unusual physiologic and pathologic neuro-ophthalmic findings in astronauts. These microgravity associated findings collectively define the "Spaceflight Associated Neuro-ocular Syndrome" (SANS). We compare and contrast prior published work on SANS by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) Space Medicine Operations Division with retrospective and prospective studies from other research groups. In this manuscript, we update and review the clinical manifestations of SANS including: unilateral and bilateral optic disc edema, globe flattening, choroidal and retinal folds, hyperopic refractive error shifts, and focal areas of ischemic retina (i.e., cotton wool spots). We also discuss the knowledge gaps for in-flight and terrestrial human research including potential countermeasures for future study. We recommend that NASA and its research partners continue to study SANS in preparation for future longer duration manned space missions.
Project description:Spaceflight-associated neuro-ocular syndrome (SANS) describes a series of morphologic and functional ocular changes in astronauts first reported by Mader and colleagues in 2011. SANS is currently clinically defined by the development of optic disc edema during prolonged exposure to the weightless (microgravity) environment, which currently occurs on International Space Station (ISS). However, as improvements in our understanding of the ocular changes emerge, the definition of SANS is expected to evolve. Other ocular SANS signs that arise during and after ISS missions include hyperopic shifts, globe flattening, choroidal/retinal folds, and cotton wool spots. Over the last 10 years, ~1 in 3 astronauts flying long-duration ISS missions have presented with ?1 of these ocular findings. Commensurate with research that combines disparate specialties (vision biology and spaceflight medicine), lessons from SANS investigations may also yield insight into ground-based ocular disorders, such as glaucomatous optic neuropathy that may have the potential to lessen the burden of this irreversible cause of vision loss on Earth.
Project description:Long duration head down tilt bed rest (HDBR) has been widely used as a spaceflight analog environment to understand the effects of microgravity on human physiology and performance. Reports have indicated that crewmembers onboard the International Space Station (ISS) experience symptoms of elevated CO2 such as headaches at lower levels of CO2 than levels at which symptoms begin to appear on Earth. This suggests there may be combinatorial effects of elevated CO2 and the other physiological effects of microgravity including headward fluid shifts and body unloading. The purpose of the current study was to investigate these effects by evaluating the impact of 30 days of 6° HDBR and 0.5% CO2 (HDBR + CO2) on mission relevant cognitive and sensorimotor performance. We found a facilitation of processing speed and a decrement in functional mobility for subjects undergoing HDBR + CO2 relative to our previous study of HDBR in ambient air. In addition, nearly half of the participants in this study developed signs of Spaceflight Associated Neuro-ocular Syndrome (SANS), a constellation of ocular structural and functional changes seen in approximately one third of long duration astronauts. This allowed us the unique opportunity to compare the two subgroups. We found that participants who exhibited signs of SANS became more visually dependent and shifted their speed-accuracy tradeoff, such that they were slower but more accurate than those that did not incur ocular changes. These small subgroup findings suggest that SANS may have an impact on mission relevant performance inflight via sensory reweighting. New And Noteworthy:We examined the effects of long duration head down tilt bed rest coupled with elevated CO2 as a spaceflight analog environment on human cognitive and sensorimotor performance. We found enhancements in processing speed and declines in functional mobility. A subset of participants exhibited signs of Spaceflight Associated Neuro-ocular Syndrome (SANS), which affects approximately one in three astronauts. These individuals increased their visual reliance throughout the intervention in comparison to participants who did not show signs of SANS.
Project description:As NASA prepares for the first manned mission to Mars in the next 20 years, close attention has been placed on the cognitive welfare of astronauts, who will likely endure extended durations in confinement and microgravity and be subjected to the radioactive charged particles travelling at relativistic speeds in interplanetary space. The future of long-duration manned spaceflight, thus, depends on understanding the individual hazards associated with the environment beyond Earth's protective magnetosphere. Ground-based single-particle studies of exposed mice and rats have, in the last 30 years, overwhelmingly reported deficits in their cognitive behaviors. However, as particle-accelerator technologies at NASA's Space Radiation Laboratory continue to progress, more realistic representations of space radiation are materializing, including multiple-particle exposures and, eventually, at multiple energy distributions. These advancements help determine how to best mitigate possible hazards due to space radiation. However, risk models will depend on delineating which particles are most responsible for specific behavioral outcomes and whether multiple-particle exposures produce synergistic effects. Here, we review the literature on animal exposures by particle, energy, and behavioral assay to inform future mixed-field radiation studies of possible behavioral outcomes.
Project description:The spaceflight-associated neuro-ocular syndrome (SANS), which may present after prolonged exposure to microgravity, is thought to occur due to elevated intracranial pressure (ICP). Intracranial pressure interacts with intraocular pressure (IOP) to define the translaminar pressure difference (TLPD; IOP-ICP). We combined inducible models of ICP and IOP elevation in mice to interrogate the relationships among ICP, IOP, and TLPD, and to determine if IOP elevation could mitigate the phenotypes typically caused by elevated ICP and thereby serve as a countermeasure for SANS. Ten C57BL6J mice of both genders underwent experimental elevation of ICP via infusion of artificial cerebrospinal fluid into the subarachnoid space. One eye also underwent experimental elevation of IOP using the bead injection model. Intraocular pressure and ICP were monitored for 2 weeks. Optokinetic-based contrast sensitivity was measured at baseline and after 2 weeks, and post-mortem studies of optic nerve and retina anatomy were performed. Photopic contrast sensitivity was reduced more in IOP elevated than control eyes. Scotopic contrast sensitivity was reduced similarly in IOP elevated and control eyes. However, the pattern of scotopic vision loss was not uniform in IOP elevated eyes; there was minimal loss in eyes that most closely approximated the normal TLPD. Optic nerve axon loss, increased optic nerve disorganization, and retinal ganglion cell loss all occurred similarly between IOP elevated and control eyes. Elevation of IOP in eyes with elevated ICP may counterbalance some effects on vision loss but exacerbate others, suggesting complex relationships among IOP, ICP, and TLPD.
Project description:A subset of long-duration spaceflight astronauts have experienced ophthalmic abnormalities, collectively termed spaceflight-associated neuro-ocular syndrome (SANS). Little is understood about the pathophysiology of SANS; however, microgravity-induced alterations in intracranial pressure (ICP) due to headward fluid shifts is the primary hypothesized contributor. In particular, potential changes in optic nerve (ON) tortuosity and ON sheath (ONS) distension may indicate altered cerebrospinal fluid dynamics during weightlessness. The present longitudinal study aims to provide a quantitative analysis of ON and ONS cross-sectional areas, and ON deviation, an indication of tortuosity, before and after spaceflight. Ten astronauts undergoing ~6-month missions on the International Space Station (ISS) underwent high-resolution magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) preflight and at five recovery time points extending to 1 year after return from the ISS. The mean changes in ON deviation, ON cross-sectional area, and ONS cross-sectional area immediately post flight were -0.14?mm (95% CI: -0.36 to 0.08, Bonferroni-adjusted P?=?1.00), 0.13?mm2 (95% CI -0.66 to 0.91, Bonferroni-adjusted P?=?1.00), and -0.22?mm2 (95% CI: -1.78 to 1.34, Bonferroni-adjusted P?=?1.00), respectively, and remained consistent during the recovery period. Terrestrially, ONS distension is associated with increased ICP; therefore, these results suggest that, on average, ICP was not pathologically elevated immediately after spaceflight. However, a subject diagnosed with optic disc edema (Frisen Grade 1, right eye) displayed increased ONS area post flight, although this increase is relatively small compared to clinical populations with increased ICP. Advanced quantitative MRI-based assessment of the ON and ONS could help our understanding of SANS and the role of ICP.
Project description:This study was initiated as a component of a larger undertaking designed to study bone healing in microgravity aboard the International Space Station (ISS). Spaceflight experimentation introduces multiple challenges not seen in ground studies, especially with regard to physical space, limited resources, and inability to easily reproduce results. Together, these can lead to diminished statistical power and increased risk of failure. It is because of the limited space, and need for improved statistical power by increasing sample size over historical numbers, NASA studies involving mice require housing mice at densities higher than recommended in the Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals (National Research Council, 2011). All previous NASA missions in which mice were co-housed, involved female mice; however, in our spaceflight studies examining bone healing, male mice are required for optimal experimentation. Additionally, the logistics associated with spaceflight hardware and our study design necessitated variation of density and cohort make up during the experiment. This required the development of a new method to successfully co-house male mice while varying mouse density and hierarchical structure. For this experiment, male mice in an experimental housing schematic of variable density (Spaceflight Correlate) analogous to previously established NASA spaceflight studies was compared to a standard ground based housing schematic (Normal Density Controls) throughout the experimental timeline. We hypothesized that mice in the Spaceflight Correlate group would show no significant difference in activity, aggression, or stress when compared to Normal Density Controls. Activity and aggression were assessed using a novel activity scoring system (based on prior literature, validated in-house) and stress was assessed via body weights, organ weights, and veterinary assessment. No significant differences were detected between the Spaceflight Correlate group and the Normal Density Controls in activity, aggression, body weight, or organ weight, which was confirmed by veterinary assessments. Completion of this study allowed for clearance by NASA of our bone healing experiments aboard the ISS, and our experiment was successfully launched February 19, 2017 on SpaceX CRS-10.
Project description:Evidence overwhelmingly suggests that the lymphatics play a critical role in the clearance of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) from the cranial space. Impairment of CSF outflow into the lymphatics is associated with a number of pathological conditions including spaceflight-associated neuro-ocular syndrome (SANS), a problem that limits long-duration spaceflight. We used near-infrared fluorescence lymphatic imaging (NIRFLI) to dynamically visualize the deep lymphatic drainage pathways shared by CSF outflow and disrupted during head-down tilt (HDT), a method used to mimic the cephalad fluid shift that occurs in microgravity. After validating CSF clearance into the lymph nodes of the neck in swine, a pilot study was conducted in human volunteers to evaluate the effect of gravity on the flow of lymph through these deep cervical lymphatics. Injected into the palatine tonsils, ICG was imaged draining into deep jugular lymphatic vessels and subsequent cervical lymph nodes. NIRFLI was performed under HDT, sitting, and supine positions. NIRFLI shows that lymphatic drainage through pathways shared by CSF outflow are dependent upon gravity and are impaired under short-term HDT. In addition, lymphatic contractile rates were evaluated from NIRFLI following intradermal ICG injections of the lower extremities. Lymphatic contractile activity in the legs was slowed in the gravity neutral, supine position, but increased under the influence of gravity regardless of whether its force direction opposed (sitting) or favored (HDT) lymphatic flow toward the heart. These studies evidence the role of a lymphatic contribution in SANS.
Project description:Hard conditions of long-term manned spaceflight can affect functions of many biological systems including a system of drug metabolism. The cytochrome P450 (CYP) superfamily plays a key role in the drug metabolism. In this study we examined the hepatic content of some P450 isoforms in mice exposed to 30 days of space flight and microgravity. The CYP content was established by the mass-spectrometric method of selected reaction monitoring (SRM). Significant changes in the CYP2C29, CYP2E1 and CYP1A2 contents were detected in mice of the flight group compared to the ground control group. Within seven days after landing and corresponding recovery period changes in the content of CYP2C29 and CYP1A2 returned to the control level, while the CYP2E1 level remained elevated. The induction of enzyme observed in the mice in the conditions of the spaceflight could lead to an accelerated biotransformation and change in efficiency of pharmacological agents, metabolizing by corresponding CYP isoforms. Such possibility of an individual pharmacological response to medication during long-term spaceflights and early period of postflight adaptation should be taken into account in space medicine.
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:Interest in space habitation has grown dramatically with planning underway for the first human transit to Mars. Despite a robust history of domestic and international spaceflight research, understanding behavioral adaptation to the space environment for extended durations is scant. Here we report the first detailed behavioral analysis of mice flown in the NASA Rodent Habitat on the International Space Station (ISS). Following 4-day transit from Earth to ISS, video images were acquired on orbit from 16- and 32-week-old female mice. Spaceflown mice engaged in a full range of species-typical behaviors. Physical activity was greater in younger flight mice as compared to identically-housed ground controls, and followed the circadian cycle. Within 7-10 days after launch, younger (but not older), mice began to exhibit distinctive circling or 'race-tracking' behavior that evolved into coordinated group activity. Organized group circling behavior unique to spaceflight may represent stereotyped motor behavior, rewarding effects of physical exercise, or vestibular sensation produced via self-motion. Affording mice the opportunity to grab and run in the RH resembles physical activities that the crew participate in routinely. Our approach yields a useful analog for better understanding human responses to spaceflight, providing the opportunity to assess how physical movement influences responses to microgravity.