NASA’s new study ‘Functional Immune’, investigates immune system changes in space travelers


Future space travelers will need to stay healthy to perform well for their own safety and for mission success. It’s important to understand how extended space travel will affect them?

Functional Immune

NASA’s new study ‘Functional Immune’ will investigate the immune system changes that occur in International Space Station (ISS) crewmembers.

To understanding, the immune system changes may help scientists pinpoint the onset of illness, and suggest monitoring strategies, treatments that can boost the immune system and prevent full-blown infections and diseases here on Earth.


The 2014 NASA’s Integrated Immune study showed that, abnormalities can occur in immune cells in ISS crewmembers blood during flight.

Normally, the immune system attacks and eliminates virus infected cells. When cell activity heightens, the immune system reacts excessively which can result in illness, increased allergy symptoms, and persistent rashes.

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The Integrated Immune team also measured the concentration of cytokines in blood plasma, the proteins that “marshal the forces,” to an infected or injured body site to defend against invaders.

The data indicated that changes can be seen in blood cytokines just as changes can be seen in cell function.

These tests will happen in parallel with the assessment of immune cells in blood, stress, and virus reactivation.

Crucian says, with the ISS, we have a unique opportunity to study very healthy people in a ‘quasi-isolation chamber’, yet experiencing all the stressors that are specific to spaceflight.

Results should help clarify the influence of spaceflight-specific environmental factors on immunity and identify countermeasures to mitigate their effects.