Astronauts can breathe a sigh of relief as they no longer have to worry about problems with the immune system. Researchers have obtained a lot of data on the influence of the space environment on the skeleton and muscles of a person during a space flight, but the situation with immunity remained a mystery. Previously it was believed that being in space adversely affects all aspects of the immune system.
Long orbital and cosmic flights are associated with an increased level of psychological stress, acute and chronic effects of cosmic rays and changes from microgravity. But it was difficult to trace the effect on the B-cell, the main lever of the immune system.
Successful and lengthy flights to Mars and other celestial bodies of the solar system require a better understanding of the effects of space flights on the immune system in order to assess the risks to crew health. Until now, most research has focused on short-term missions to the ISS. But last week we managed to collect data on long-term flights covering 6 months of astronaut life on the ISS, noting any changes in the function of B-cells. B cells are the main type of leukocytes responsible for the production of antibodies that target harmful pathogens. Optimal B-cell immunity is important to ensure long-term protection against pathogenic bacteria and viruses. This is the first study that comprehensively demonstrates the limited impact on B-cell frequency and antibody production.
Blood samples were taken from astronauts before, during and after 6 months of residence on the ISS. The results suggest that the immune status of B cells remains holistic. This data will help support the use of vaccine-based countermeasures to protect astronauts from immune dysregulation and symptomatic latent viral reactions that appear during long-term missions in space.