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For an Immune Cell, Microgravity Mimics Aging (NASA, International Space Station, 04/21/14) | by NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center
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For an Immune Cell, Microgravity Mimics Aging (NASA, International Space Station, 04/21/14)

Caption: Scanning electron micrograph of a human T lymphocyte (also called a T cell) from the immune system of a healthy donor.


Image credit: NIAID (National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases)


From the International Space Station Research feature:


NASA and the National Institute on Aging, part of the National Institutes of Health, have teamed up to support research aboard the International Space Station that may one day advance medical care and quality of life for all humanity. T-Cell Activation in Aging is the first study to launch into space that is funded by the Biomedical Research on the International Space Station National Institutes of Health initiative.


It is difficult to study the genetic and molecular changes associated with aging-related immune suppression because the condition develops over decades, and the elderly often have illnesses that can complicate research studies. However, changes in the immune system—including T-cell behavior—quickly occur in space.


“One of our goals for this study is to use microgravity as a novel model system of aging to investigate the molecular mechanisms of immune suppression commonly seen in the elderly population,” said Millie Hughes-Fulford, former NASA astronaut, principal investigator for the study and researcher at the University of California, San Francisco, Northern California Institute for Research and Education and the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center. “Ultimately, this could lead us to new treatment strategies for immune system dysfunction.”


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Taken on May 24, 2010