Fungal Pathogenesis, Tumorigenesis, and Effects of Host Immunity in Space (FIT) - 01.09.14

Overview | Description | Applications | Operations | Results | Publications | Imagery

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Science Objectives for Everyone

The Fungal Pathogenesis, Tumorigenesis, and Effects of Host Immunity in Space (FIT) experiment primarily studies the effects of spaceflight on the immune system responses of the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster. Since there is evidence that suggests the immune system of organisms are affected by spaceflight, this proposal seeks to assess the extent and the detailed molecular biological changes that are associated with spaceflight. In addition, this work also investigates the progression of cancerous and benign tumors in sensitized mutant lines (cells that turn into tumors) that show an increase in tumor formation, and is coupled with the effect of radiation exposure.

Science Results for Everyone

Space affects the immune systems of both humans and tiny fruit flies. This investigation looked at molecular changes and progression of increased tumor formation associated with spaceflight in fruit flies, together with the effect of radiation exposure. Short-term space flight was shown to affect fundamental processes and maturing of immune cells in the fruit flies, with many of these changes mirroring those in humans post-flight. Analysis showed that changes seen in the fruit fly immune systems could be explained by gene expression changes, contributing to a fundamental understanding of space flight’s effect on basic molecular activity.



This content was provided by Sharmila Bhattacharya, Ph.D., and is maintained in a database by the ISS Program Science Office.

Experiment Details

OpNom: FIT

Principal Investigator(s)

  • Sharmila Bhattacharya, Ph.D., NASA Ames Research Center, CA, United States
  • Co-Investigator(s)/Collaborator(s)

  • Deborah Kimbrell, Ph.D., University of California, Davis, Davis, CA, United States
  • Developer(s)

    NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA, United States

    Sponsoring Space Agency
    National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

    Sponsoring Organization
    Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate (HEOMD)

    Research Benefits
    Information Pending

    ISS Expedition Duration
    April 2006 - September 2006

    Expeditions Assigned
    13

    Previous ISS Missions

    This will be the first flight for the FIT experiment.

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    Experiment Description

    Research Overview

    • Fungal Pathogenesis, Tumorigenesis, and Effects of Host Immunity in Space (FIT) will provide detailed information on the interaction between elements of the space environment on immune function.


    • FIT also investigates the growth of cancerous and benign tumors in sensitized genetic lines (breeds) of Drosophila melanogaster (fruit flies) that show an increase in the incidence of tumor formation. The effect of ground radiation exposure is coupled to this study.


    • In addition, samples of a fungal pathogen that infects flies are exposed to the space environment. Space-flown samples are used postflight to infect fruit flies on the ground and assess changes in the pathogen.

    Description

    The Fungal Pathogenesis, Tumorigenesis, and Effects of Host Immunity in Space (FIT) investigation takes place on board the Space Shuttle during the STS-121/ULF1.1 mission. FIT addresses a series of health risks associated with space flight using Drosophila melanogaster (fruit flies) as a simple model organism that can be flown on the shuttle with minimal resources and with large samples sizes. The innate immunity is the first line of defense that multicellular organisms, such as humans and flies (Drosophila melanogaster), use when faced with pathogens. These responses include expression of antimicrobial peptides, phagocytosis of the microbes by blood cells and clotting/melanization. All of these responses will be measured from animals returning from space flight and compared to ground-bred animals. A fungal pathogen will also be flown in order to assess whether space flight results in changes in virulence in the fungus. Ground radiation studies with high energy protons, as experienced by astronauts during solar flares, will be used to assess the effects of radiation on the immune system as well as on tumor formation in the fly. The use of Drosophila melanogaster (fruit fly) to study immunity allows for large population sizes of animals to be studied in relatively small volumes, yielding statistically significant data.

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    Applications

    Space Applications

    It is a known fact that space travel affects the genetic activity of crewmembers, but researchers cannot yet predict which genes will be affected or precisely determine how gravity signals a gene to change. FIT is the first step in answering these questions.

    Earth Applications

    Effects of pathogens on wild type and immune-compromised hosts is of great relevance to human immune diseases.

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    Operations

    Operational Requirements

    In flight, the crew conducts one session of the food tray change-out operation. At the time of the food tray change-out, the food tray exposed to the adult flies carries eggs, embryo, and larvae. The procedure consists of transferring a new food tray into the fly cassette that carries the adult flies and then transferring the food tray with the larvae into a new unused fly cassette. The Platform Kit is used to provide containment during this operation. Postflight, the specimens are returned for processing by the PI team.

    Operational Protocols

    The flies are housed in cassettes that are modified from ESA type 1 containers and have been rebuilt at NASA Ames in order to ensure no escape of larvae, and for efficient food change-out in space using the Platform Kit also designed at NASA Ames for the FIT experiment.

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    Results/More Information

    FIT studied the effects of space flight on the immune system responses of the common fruit fly. Even short-term space flight affects the fundamental process of cellular and humoral (secretion of antimicrobial peptides into the blood and accessory processes) immunity and phagocytosis (the cell engulfing microorganisms) functions and the maturation of immune cells in Drosophila melanogaster (fruit fly) innate immune system (the first line of defense against invading microorganisms). Many of these changes mirror alterations seen in human innate immune systems postflight. The large number of fruit flies returned from FIT allowed a significant number of assays to be conducted postflight. Physiological changes observed in the innate immune system could be explained by gene expression changes, allowing a fundamental understanding of the underlying molecular pathways affected by space flight. (Marcu et al. 2011)

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    Results Publications

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    Ground Based Results Publications

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    ISS Patents

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    Related Publications

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    Related Websites

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    Imagery

    image Dr. Sharmila Bhattacharya, prinicpal investigator, checks the health of the fly culture in readiness for the shuttle flight experiment. Image courtesy of Ames Research Center.
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    image Matthew Lera, a research scientist at Ames Research Center, preparing media for maintaining fly stocks that will be used for the shuttle experiment. Image courtesy of Ames Research Center.
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    image Drs. Oana Marcu and Laura Higgins, research scientists at Ames Research Center, conduct immunity assays in preparation for the launch of the Space Shuttle experiment. Image courtesy of Ames Research Center.
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    image Replenishing the flies with new food to generate the next generation of flies in space. Image courtesy of Ames Research Center.
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    image Fly hemocytes (blood cells) engulfing bacteria as a way of resisting infection. Image courtesy of Ames Research Center.
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    image Drosophila melanogaster(fruit flies). Image courtesy of Ames Research Center.
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