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Daytona Beach


Human Factors and Behavioral Neurobiology

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The impact of spaceflight on immune function is undoubtedly a critical focus in the area of space biology and human health research. Heat shock proteins (Hsp) are an evolutionarily conserved family of proteins that are expressed in response to cellular and physiological stressors, experienced during radiation exposure, confinement, circadian rhythm disruption, and altered gravity (hypergravity experienced at launch/landing and microgravity experienced in-flight). In particular, Hsp70 aids in the folding of proteins, facilitates the movement of proteins across the membranes during signal transductions and can stimulate innate immunity. Since Hsp70 is induced during cellular stress, and can act as a stimulator for innate immunity, we sought to address how a loss of Hsp70 affects immunity, under the stress-inducing model of acute and chronic hypergravity. Moreover, the effects of gravity as a continuum on the induction of Hsps and key immune genes were also assessed to determine if increased cellular stress, via increased gravity (g)-force, contributes to immune dysfunctions. For this, wildtype (W1118) and Hsp70 deficient (Hsp70null) Drosophila melanogaster were subjected to simulated hypergravity at increasing levels of g-force (1.2g, 3g, and 5g) for acute (1hr) and chronic (7-day) timepoints and were compared to 0g 'non-hypergravity' controls. Following simulation, whole bodies were sex-segregated, RNA was isolated and quantitative (q)PCR was performed to determine differential immune gene expression profiles. Further, functional output of hemocytes were assessed by a phagocytosis assay. Collectively, these studies evaluated the effects of Hsp70 in the context of immunity during acute and chronic hypergravity. Indeed, relevance for this work can directly translate to acute effects of launch/landing gravitational forces upon liftoff (~1.7g) and entry (~3.4g) that astronauts experience. In addition, the effects of chronic cellular stress is directly relevant to the immune health of astronauts on long duration missions, as well. Thus, as we approach the goal of returning to the Moon and landing the first humans on Mars, an evaluation of gravity as a continuum and the stress-inducing effects of altered gravity experienced during spaceflight on astronaut immunity and health are necessary.


Denver, CO

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Dr. Paul was not affiliated with Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University at the time this paper was published.