Before you swat away the next fruit fly, consider instead just how similar its biological complexities are to our own. In a study published in PLOS ONE, researchers led by Deborah Kimbrell, Ph.D., at the University of California, Davis (UC Davis) and their collaborators, studied how microorganisms may alter fruit flies' immunity in space and in hypergravity, or increased gravity. The article is titled "Toll Mediated Infection Response Is Altered by Gravity and Spaceflight in Drosophila."
This study suggests that having normal gravity or hypergravity on the space station may help mitigate some of the biological problems, including weakened immune response, in organisms living in space. Since fruit flies have similar immune response mechanisms to humans, this knowledge may help NASA create specialized countermeasures to keep astronauts healthy during long-duration space missions to an asteroid or Mars.
Knowledge that spaceflight weakens the human immune system obtained from years of research in microgravity has led scientists to use model organisms similar to humans to test out various scenarios of disease or weakened immunity in spaceflight. Model organisms, such as plants, fruit flies or microbes like yeast, advance our understanding of the influence of microgravity on cells. Taking these organisms to space allows for examination of growth and development and physiological, psychological and aging processes without the impact of gravity.
"What we don't realize in our everyday lives is that every biological, chemical and physical process that takes place in our terrestrial environment of Earth happens under the influence of gravitational forces," explained Camille Alleyne, Ed.D., space station assistant program scientist at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. "Conducting scientific investigations on the space station, such as that on the fruit flies, allows us to remove that gravitational element from the equation, an
|Contact: Laura Niles|
NASA/Johnson Space Center