Fruit flies bred in space reveal microgravity's impact on astronauts
Fruit flies bred in space are now offering scientists a clue as to how astronauts' immune systems could get damaged during prolonged space travel.
A team of researchers from the University of California at Davis and the University of Central Florida has been studying the impact weightlessness has on fruit flies in space.
Fruit flies' innate immune system is similar to that of humans and other mammals and is often used as a model in basic studies. While the negative impact of zero gravity on muscle, bone mass and the immune system has long been documented, exactly how it happens remains a mystery.
Laurence Von Kalm, a UCF biologist who worked on the study said that their study showed that a biochemical pathway needed to fight fungal infections is seriously compromised in the flies after space flight.
The research team, led by UC Davis biologist Deborah Kimbrell, bred flies in space aboard Space Shuttle Discovery in 2006.
The flies developed into adults while on the 12-day mission. The flies were retrieved after the mission and researchers found that they were more apt to get fungal infections.
Further analysis revealed that the system the flies use for detecting and defending against fungal infection was deactivated. In contrast, another system used to defend against bacterial infection was not impaired in the space flies.
The findings have been published in the journal PLOS One.
(Posted on 03-02-2014)