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Studying Immune Cell Aging in Space May Lead to New Therapies for Patients on Earth

publication date: Oct 24, 2023
author/source: International Space Station (ISS) National Laboratory
NASA astronaut Kjell Lindgren processes samples inside the Life Science Glovebox for the Immunosenescence space biology study.
Image courtesy of NASA


A healthy immune system is what defends the body from invaders like bacteria and viruses. But for the elderly and those facing chronic diseases, the immune system can wear down over time.

To better understand the relationship between immune aging and how the body heals itself, a team of scientists took their research to new heights by leveraging the International Space Station (ISS) National Laboratory to study microgravity’s effects on immune cell function.

As people age, their immune system function declines gradually over time, which makes them increasingly vulnerable to infection and disease. Research shows that these same types of immune system changes have been observed in healthy astronauts during spaceflight, but at an accelerated rate. This makes the unique conditions of the space station an ideal platform for studying the immune aging process.

This research is featured in the latest issue of Upward, the official magazine of the ISS National Lab. Upward is dedicated to communicating the results of ISS National Lab-sponsored experiments that demonstrate the value of space-based research and technology development. Read the article “Unlocking the Secrets of the Immune System: How Tissue Chips in Space Could Hold the Key” to discover how scientists are leveraging the orbiting laboratory for research that could lead to new treatments for patients with compromised immune systems on Earth.


About the International Space Station (ISS) National Laboratory

The International Space Station (ISS) is a one-of-a-kind laboratory that enables research and technology development not possible on Earth. As a public service enterprise, the ISS National Laboratory® allows researchers to leverage this multiuser facility to improve quality of life on Earth, mature space-based business models, advance science literacy in the future workforce, and expand a sustainable and scalable market in low Earth orbit. Through this orbiting national laboratory, research resources on the ISS are available to support non-NASA science, technology, and education initiatives from U.S. government agencies, academic institutions, and the private sector. The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space™ (CASIS™) manages the ISS National Lab, under Cooperative Agreement with NASA, facilitating access to its permanent microgravity research environment, a powerful vantage point in low Earth orbit, and the extreme and varied conditions of space.



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