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Aviat Space Environ Med. 2011 Jun;82(6):627-34.

Adrenocortical and immune responses following short- and long-duration spaceflight.

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  • 1Microgen Laboratories, La Marque, TX 77568, USA.



Short-term spaceflight is associated with significant but reversible immunological alterations. However, little information exists on the effects of long-duration spaceflight on neuroimmune responses.


We collected multiple pre- and postflight samples from Shuttle and International Space Station (ISS) crewmembers in order to compare adrenocortical and immune responses between short- (approximately 11 d) and long-duration (approximately 180 d) spaceflight.


In Shuttle crewmembers, increased stress hormone levels and altered leukocyte subsets were observed prior to launch and at landing. Additionally, typical stress-induced shifts in leukocyte and lymphocyte subsets, as well as the percentage of T-cells capable of producing intracellular IFN-gamma were also decreased just before launch and immediately after landing. Plasma IL-10 levels were increased before launch but not postflight. No preflight changes occurred in ISS crewmembers, but long-duration crewmembers exhibited significantly greater spikes in both plasma and urinary cortisol at landing as compared to Shuttle crewmembers. The percentage of T-cells capable of producing intracellular IFN-gamma was decreased in ISS crewmembers. Plasma IL-10 was increased postflight. Unexpectedly, stress-induced shifts in lymphocyte subpopulations were absent after long-duration flights despite significantly increased stress hormones at landing.


Our results demonstrate significant differences in neuroimmune responses between astronauts flying on short-duration Shuttle missions versus long-duration ISS missions, and they agree with prior studies demonstrating the importance of mission duration in the magnitude of these changes.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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