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Long Stays in Space Mess with Immune System

Extended space travel can cause dysregulation of astronauts' immune systems, researchers reported here.

Astronauts who spent 6 months in space experienced reduced T-cell function and depressed creation of signaling cytokines, the latter of which persisted once they were back on earth, according to Brian Crucian, PhD, of NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston, and colleagues.

Dysregulation of the immune system shown in post-flight data could result in specific clinical health risks -- such as infection, hypersensitivity, autoimmunity, and cancer -- for crew members on extended missions, the authors noted in their poster presentation at the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology meeting.

In order to undertake longer missions, such as to asteroids or Mars, NASA "needs counter-measures to this phenomenon," Crucian noted.

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