Last Published:  11/23/20 11:55:10 AM (Central)
Responsible Element: Human Health Countermeasures (HHC)
Status: Open
Present state of knowledge: Two decades of ground and flight studies in low-Earth orbit (LEO) have documented a phenomenon consisting of reduced T and NK cell function, normal B cell function, and persistent inflammation (elevations in inflammatory cytokines). Occurring in parallel, likely with a cause-effect relationship, is the reactivation of latent herpesviruses, documented by the detection of virus DNA (with live infectious particles) in saliva or urine. In select crewmembers, adverse clinical events occur, such as infections, atopic dermatitis, or atypical allergy symptoms, likely related to persistent immune dysregulation. These functional immune changes are likely due to a combination of stressors, seen in both LEO missions as well as in terrestrial analogs, including isolation and confinement, physical and psychological stress, circadian misalignment, nutritional contributors and others. The International Space Station (ISS), residing in LEO, is exposed to higher radiation levels compared with Earth, but the levels and types of radiation found in deep space will be higher and more detrimental to many aspects of human health. Little data exists on the potential added or synergistic effect of such radiation exposure on the immune changes seen on ISS.

Research approach: Evaluation of the combined effects of deep-space radiation and stress/weightlessness/nutrition, before, during, and after missions to the deep-space Gateway and the Moon, in comparison to data collected from low-Earth orbit (LEO) missions. Irradiated animal models and irradiated cell cultures may be pursued as well. HRP will fund studies via solicited and directed mechanisms, including data mining of previously conducted studies and case reports on radiation exposures of cell cultures, animals and humans. Of note, the composition of deep-space radiation is unlike any radiation source found on Earth, but can be simulated at NASA’s National Space Radiation Laboratory (NSRL).
Target for Closure
Understand the contribution of deep-space radiation to immune dysfunction, update our knowledge of the risk, contribute to development of human health Standards, and update the list of required countermeasures.
Risk Risk of Adverse Health Event Due to Altered Immune Response
You are here! Gap IM-101: Evaluate the effects of deep-space radiation on immune dysfunction, as an additional hazard to the effects of psychophysiological stress and weightlessness.

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