The Immunology Laboratory is responsible for investigating the effects of space flight on various aspects of human physiology. The two primary areas of research deal with the effects of space flight on the human immune system and increased risk of kidney stone formation during flight due to bone demineralization.
The goal of the Immunology Laboratory is to investigate the mechanisms responsible for these physiologic changes so that appropriate countermeasures can be developed for future exploration-class space missions. Laboratory personnel conduct ground-based research and space flight experiments onboard the Space Shuttle and the International Space Station. Laboratory personnel also perform conceptual design and prototype development for specific flight hardware. Laboratory personnel recently initiated design and validation of a prototype spaceflight-compatible flow cytometer for in-flight medical and research support.
Bioastronautics team scientists comprise the core research staff of the laboratory. In addition, postdoctoral associates, visiting scientists, graduate students and high school students routinely perform rotations of varying lengths in the laboratory. The laboratory currently possesses an impressive array of sophisticated research equipment, including a clinical flow cytometer, fluorescent microscopes, a spectrophotometer and a high performance liquid chromatograph. Recent upgrades to the laboratory have included a six-color research flow cytometer, a confocal microscope, and an environmental scanning electron microscope.
Specific research includes the following:
- Pre- and post-flight immune assessment of Shuttle and ISS crew members
- Investigation of spaceflight effects (and microgravity model systems) on T-cell signal transduction
- Determining the risk of the renal stone formation to crew members during long-duration space flight
These studies support the multidisciplinary assessment of crew health risks and the development of potential countermeasures to mitigate these risks. Laboratory personnel also perform microgravity studies and hardware validation onboard the NASA C-9 parabolic flight research aircraft.
Laboratory personnel have published research findings in many reputable scientific journals including: FASEB Journal, Journal of the Leukocyte Biology, Cytometry, Journal of Gravitational Physiology, Journal of Interferon and Cytokine Research, Mineral Electrolyte and Metabolism and Journal of the American Society of Nephrology. In addition, they routinely present data at both national and international scientific meetings.