The Immune System of Astronauts is Influenced by Exposure to Space

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Astronaut Scott Kelly spent almost a year on the International Space Station. After he came back to Earth NASA researchers decided to compare the immune systems of Kelly and his twin brother in order to observe the effects of space exposure on the human body.

The results of the tests were quite surprising, posing new questions for the medical division of the agency. One of the most interesting changes is represented by the fact that Kelly’s immune system appeared to be stuck on overdrive.

One of the researchers noted that the body’s reaction to the space environment can be compared to the same reaction that appears when a strange organism can be found within the body. NASA has been observing the effects of space exploration on the human body since the first space programs were approved. Usually, an astronaut will spend 6 months in space. At the end of the period, he or she will return to Earth for a break. Kelly spent a record number of 340 days on the International Space Station, reaching a new landmark for US astronauts.

Kelly, who is now retired, has declared that the never felt at peace in space, mentioning annoying issues like congestion, digestive problems, headaches and the inability to focus for extended periods of time.

The results of the study were not published in their entirety but some of them were already presented at a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. It appears that some of the genes connected to the immune system entered a state of overdrive. This action is related to gene expression, a process in which genes are able to control their production of proteins. The phenomenon is thought to be normal since the body will always react to external influences.

The state of Kelly’s immune system has returned to normal but the researchers were able to learn a high amount of useful information that could be used in the context of future space missions.