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Validation of Procedures for Monitoring Crewmember Immune Function (SMO 015)

There is ample evidence to suggest that space flight leads to immune system dysregulation. This may be a result of microgravity, confinement, physiological stress, radiation, environment, or other mission-associated factors. The clinical risk from prolonged immune dysfunction could be significant and may include increased incidence of infection, allergy, hypersensitivity, hematological malignancy, or altered wound healing. The clinical risk associated with prolonged exploration class space flight is significantly higher than for Earth-orbital flight. Each of the clinical events resulting from immune dysfunction has the potential to impact mission critical objectives during long-duration space flight. In order to develop the best monitoring strategy that can successfully be implemented within the spacecraft flight constraints, the investigators have examined terrestrial analogues, clinical medicine, and previous space flight experience. This review was distilled to select appropriate immune markers for routine monitoring of crewmember immune function. The objective of this Supplemental Medical Objective (SMO) is to develop and validate an immune monitoring strategy consistent with operational flight requirements and constraints. There are no procedures currently in place to monitor immune function or its influence on crewmembers' health. Immune dysregulation has been demonstrated to occur during space flight, yet precious little in-flight immune data has been generated to assess this clinical problem. This SMO assesses the clinical risks resulting from the adverse effects of space flight on the human immune system and will validate a flight-compatible immune monitoring strategy. Characterization of the clinical risk and the development of a monitoring strategy are necessary prerequisite activities prior to validating countermeasures.

Immune dysfunction has been demonstrated to occur during space flight, and in certain ground-based models of space flight. Immune dysregulation, in conjunction with high-energy radiation exposure and latent viral reactivation, may have important health consequences during exploration class space flights. The assays developed for the Immune SMO will be evaluated for the routine monitoring of space-related immune alterations. It is important to develop a monitoring strategy (none currently exists) prior to the evaluation of potential countermeasures. This panel of assays may have potential terrestrial applications for the monitoring of immune function in populations with altered immunity (ranging from high stress individuals to third world medicine).

Additional objectives are to examine the detectable immune system changes associated with the inflight period, distinct from post-landing assessments. Specifically, this study will determine the scope of clinical changes associated with space flight by assessing: leukocyte subset distribution; cytokine profile changes (RNA, intracellular, secreted), viral reactivation (viral specific T cell number and function, viral antibody levels, viral DNA detection), and physiological stress hormone levels.

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Crucian B, Stowe R, Mehta S, Uchakin P, Quiriarte H, Pierson D, and Sams C. Immune system dysregulation occurs during short duration spaceflight on board the space shuttle. Journal of Clinical Immunology. 2013. February; 33(2):456-65. []

Crucian BE1, Zwart SR, Mehta S, Uchakin P, Quiriarte HD, Pierson D, Sams CF, and Smith SM. Plasma Cytokine Concentrations Indicate That In Vivo Hormonal Regulation of Immunity Is Altered During Long-Duration Spaceflight. Journal of Interferon Cytokine Research. 2014. October; 34(10):778-86 []

Mehta SK, Laudenslager ML, Stowe RP, Crucian BE, Sams CF, and Pierson DL. Multiple latent viruses reactivate in astronauts during Space Shuttle missions. Brain Behavior and Immunity. 2014. October; 41:210-7 []

Zwart SR1, Pierson D, Mehta S, Gonda S, and Smith SM. Capacity of omega-3 fatty acids or eicosapentaenoic acid to counteract weightlessness-induced bone loss by inhibiting NF-kappaB activation: from cells to bed rest to astronauts. Journal of Bone and Mineral Research. 2010. May; 25(5):1049-57. []

Crucian B, Stowe RP, Mehta S, Quiriarte H, Pierson D, and Sams C. Alterations in adaptive immunity persist during long-duration spaceflight. NPJ Microgravity. 2015;1:15013. [DOI]

Adaptation, physiological
Antibodies, viral/analysis
Flow cytometry
Immunity, cellular
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Data Information
Data Availability
Archive is complete. Data sets are not publicly available but can be requested.
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Cellular EBV DNA
CMV IgG AB level
CMV-specific CD8 + T cells
EBV-EA IgG AB level
EBV-NA IgG AB level
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Mission/Study Information
Mission Launch/Start Date Landing/End Date Duration
Expedition 16 10/10/2007 04/19/2008 192 days
Expedition 17 04/08/2008 10/23/2008 198 days
Expedition 18 10/12/2008 04/17/2009 187 days
Expedition 19 03/26/2009 10/11/2009 199 days
Expedition 20 05/27/2009 10/11/2009 137 days
Expedition 21 10/11/2009 12/01/2009 51 days
Expedition 22 11/30/2009 03/18/2010 109 days
Expedition 23 03/18/2010 06/01/2010 75 days
Expedition 24 06/01/2010 09/25/2010 117 days
Expedition 25 09/24/2010 11/25/2010 31 days
Expedition 26 11/26/2010 03/16/2011 111 days
Expedition 27 03/14/2011 05/23/2011 70 days
Expedition 28 05/23/2011 09/15/2011 115 days
Expedition 29 09/16/2011 11/21/2011 40 days
Expedition 30 11/14/2011 04/27/2012 166 days
Expedition 31 04/27/2012 07/01/2012 65 days
STS-119 02/22/2009 03/07/2009 14 days
STS-120 10/23/2007 11/07/2007 15 days
STS-122 02/07/2008 02/20/2008 13 days
STS-123 03/11/2008 03/26/2008 16 days
STS-124 05/25/2008 06/04/2008 10 days
STS-126 11/14/2008 11/30/2008 16 days
STS-127 07/15/2009 07/31/2009 16 days
STS-128 08/28/2009 09/11/2009 14 days
STS-129 11/16/2009 11/27/2009 11 days

Human Research Program (HRP) Human Research Roadmap (HRR) Information
Crew health and performance is critical to successful human exploration beyond low Earth orbit. The Human Research Program (HRP) investigates and mitigates the highest risks to human health and performance, providing essential countermeasures and technologies for human space exploration. Risks include physiological and performance effects from hazards such as radiation, altered gravity, and hostile environments, as well as unique challenges in medical support, human factors, and behavioral health support. The HRP utilizes an Integrated Research Plan (IRP) to identify the approach and research activities planned to address these risks, which are assigned to specific Elements within the program. The Human Research Roadmap is the web-based tool for communicating the IRP content.

The Human Research Roadmap is located at:

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Additional Information
Managing NASA Center
Johnson Space Center (JSC)
Responsible NASA Representative
Johnson Space Center LSDA Office
Project Manager: Jessica Keune
Institutional Support
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
Alternate Experiment Name
Integrated Immune
SDBI 1900
Proposal Date