Rodent Research-2 (NASA #2) Implications for Elevated Intracranial Pressure (Rodent Research-2 (NASA #2)) - 09.17.14
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Living in space causes several physical changes to the human body, including microscopic changes in the vascular system. Rodent Research-2 (NASA #2) determines which changes occur in the blood-brain barrier during spaceflight, as fluid pressure on the brain increases. Understanding the effects of microgravity on brain vasculature could provide insight into space-related neurological changes, such as impaired vision or reduced cognitive ability.
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OpNom Rodent Research-2
NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA, United States
Sponsoring Space Agency
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate (HEOMD)
Earth Benefits, Scientific Discovery, Space Exploration
ISS Expedition Duration
September 2014 - March 2015
Previous ISS Missions
• Spaceflight has many different effects on the body; therefore it is important to understand how brain vasculature is affected so that researchers can find ways to improve human health in space. This project aims to help scientist gain a better understanding of the changes to human brains on earth.
• Assessment of the mechanisms involved in the previously reported adverse effects of spaceflight on brain vasculature and vision caused by increased fluid pressure in the brain.
• To better understand and assess the effect of long-term space missions on rodents, which may provide insight into human health on long-duration missions. Specifically, to learn how fluid-pressure changes in the brain can alter brain vasculature and cause ailments such as impaired vision.
Long-term spaceflight has been shown to cause an impairment of vision in crew members while in space, and this change in vision has persisted even after they return to earth. Scientists have proposed that the lack of gravity in space allows fluids to move toward the head and that the barrier in the brain that keeps too much fluid from moving into the brain, known as the blood-brain barrier, is somehow disrupted. This excess fluid in the brain may be one of the causes of the visual impairment among astronauts.
For this investigation, the brains are dissected from the mice, fixed in formalin, and stored at ambient temperature. This dissection occurs immediately following the exsanguination and spleen dissection and the liver dissection for the Phosphate Buffered Saline (PBS) control group. On the ground, ultrathin sections are cut using an ultramicrotome and examined using a transmission electron microscope. This project will also help us better understand changes to human brain structure caused by fluid shifts and changes in intracranial pressure both on-orbit and on earth.
Based on modeling data for microgravity-induced elevations in intracranial pressure, it is hypothesized that there will be a widening of perivascular spaces and swelling of astrocytic foot processes around capillaries in the cerebral parenchyma, indicating the tight junction may be compromised.
Simulating the microgravity, radiation, and launch conditions of spaceflight is difficult to do on Earth. Subjecting rodents to the real environment of space can provide crucial information about how mammals respond to those stressors. Specifically, understanding how spaceflight causes physical changes in brain vasculature could help explain reported changes in vision during space missions.
Rodent Research-2 (NASA #2) demonstrates how changes in blood pressure can affect the control of blood flow to the brain, and how this could affect vision. Understanding the relationship between blood pressure and the brain vasculature could provide insights for neuroscience on Earth, including for patients with brain injuries or neurological disorders.
Video downlink is necessary.
After a minimum of two weeks of spaceflight exposure, brains are dissected and fixed in formalin and stored in the MELFI or at ambient temperature, respectively. On the ground, ultrathin sections are cut using an ultramicrotome and examined using a transmission electron microscope.