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Functional Immune Alterations, Latent Herpesvirus Reactivation, Physiological Stress and Clinical Incidence Onboard the International Space Station (Functional_Immune)
Principal Investigator
Research Area:
Biomedical countermeasures
Clinical medicine
Species Studied
Scientific Name: Homo sapiens Species: Human

Some aspects of adaptive cellular immunity have been characterized during space flight, while many other areas of immunity (humoral, innate, cell specific functional, etc.) have not. The objective of this project is to characterize multiple diverse facets of immunoregulation during long-duration space flight. Investigators hypothesize that while aspects of adaptive immune function are depressed during space flight, aspects of humoral or innate immune function may be unaltered or even sensitized. This would explain the observed reactivation of latent herpesviruses in astronauts, and also the elevated incidence of skin rashes and hypersensitivity reactions during International Space Station (ISS) missions. If the hypothesis is validated, it would be an important consideration for any future immunology countermeasures. For example, one would not give an immune ‘booster’ to address T cell function in a crewmember if it might potentially worsen on-orbit skin rashes or allergy symptoms. Investigators further hypothesize that there is a widely disparate post-landing recovery for various aspects of immune dysregulation following flight. Previous data have demonstrated that ISS astronauts maintain shedding of latent herpesviruses at least to R+30. This study will fully characterize all relevant immune dysregulation through a post-mission recovery.

The specific scientific aims are as follows:

  1. Longitudinally examine the effect of space flight on previously uninvestigated aspects of immunobiology including leukocyte distribution and various aspects of innate cellular function. Several previously validated assays of adaptive cellular distribution and function will be examined concurrently to correlate both innate and adaptive immune dysregulation within crewmembers.
  2. Determine the effect of space flight on various soluble markers of in-vivo immune-physiological status, including plasma, salivary and urinary markers of stress, inflammation, cytokine profiles, antimicrobial activity, and latent viral reactivation. Several solicited parameters are also planned to augment this specific aim, including proteomics and/or genomics.
  3. Correlate findings of immune status with astronaut environmental, human, and stress factors such as sleep/wake data, crew work schedules, surveys of in-flight symptomology and/or medication use (voluntary), vehicle docking/undocking, extravehicular activity (EVA), etc. This correlative work should help to inform NASA’s scientific and operational communities about the influence of spaceflight-specific environmental factors on immunity, factors which may potentially be modulated in accordance with countermeasures development.

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Herpes Zoster/virology
Immune system

Data Information
Data Availability
Archiving in progress. Data is not yet available for this experiment.

Complete blood count (CBC)
Cytokine levels, plasma
Cytokine profile, saliva
Cytokine profiles, mitogen stimulated
Cytomegalovirus (CMV) DNA
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Mission/Study Information
Mission Launch/Start Date Landing/End Date Duration
Expedition 50 10/28/2016 04/09/2017 164 days
Expedition 51 04/09/2017 06/02/2017 55 days
Expedition 52 06/02/2017 09/02/2017 92 days
Expedition 53 09/02/2017 12/14/2017 102 days
Expedition 54 12/14/2017 02/27/2018 75 days
Expedition 55 02/27/2018 06/03/2018 96 days
Expedition 56 06/03/2018 10/04/2018 123 days
Expedition 57 10/04/2018 12/20/2018 77 days
Expedition 58 12/18/2018 03/14/2019 85 days
Expedition 59 03/14/2019 06/24/2019 102 days
Expedition 60 06/24/2019 10/03/2019 101 days
Expedition 61 10/03/2019 02/06/2020 126 days
Expedition 62 02/06/2020 04/17/2020 70 days
Expedition 63 04/17/2020 10/21/2020 187 days
Expedition 64 10/21/2020 04/16/2021 177 days
Expedition 65 04/16/2021 10/17/2021 184 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
Proposal Date
Proposal Source
Directed Research