Effects of Microgravity on the Haemopoietic System: A Study on Neocytolysis (Neocytolysis) - 05.13.15

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Early studies on astronauts found that anemia (decrease of red blood cells in the blood stream) of individuals returning from a space flight was due to selective hemolysis (destruction of red blood cells), neocytolysis. The Neocytolysis investigation, can lead to treatments of different types of anemia, especially those related to renal failure or acute infections.
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Exploding red blood cells!? Less of that, please.  Astronauts experience significant, symptomatic anemia caused by neocytolysis, a process that selectively ruptures new red blood cells. This happens under certain conditions on Earth as well, such as moving from high altitude to sea level. Blood cell volume, hemoglobin concentration, and red blood cell counts did not significantly differ from pre- to post-space flight. The percentage of new red blood cells did decrease after flight, and young cells lost viability, indicating that destruction of red blood cells occurred in space. Researchers observed no significant changes in red blood cell population in the control group. A programmed cell death characteristic in the organism could trigger the cell destruction.

The following content was provided by Angela Maria Rizzo, Ph.D., and is maintained in a database by the ISS Program Science Office.
Information provided courtesy of the Erasmus Experiment Archive.
Experiment Details


Principal Investigator(s)
Angela Maria Rizzo, Ph.D., University of Milan, Milan, Italy

Maria E. Cosulich, Ph.D., Università di Pavia, Pavia, Italy
Guglielmo Antonutto, M.D., University of Udine, Udine, Italy
Giampaolo Minetti, University of Pavia, Pavai, Italy

Italian Space Agency (ASI), Rome, Italy

Sponsoring Space Agency
European Space Agency (ESA)

Sponsoring Organization
Information Pending

Research Benefits
Information Pending

ISS Expedition Duration
September 2006 - April 2008

Expeditions Assigned

Previous ISS Missions
Information Pending

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Experiment Description

Research Overview

  • Neocytolysis (selective destruction of red blood cells) occurring in astronauts is an acute adaptive response triggered by the exposure to microgravity under normal oxygen pressure.

  • Blood samples drawn from astronauts before and after a short duration space flight to ISS will be analyzed by investigators to determine the factors which contribute to neocytolysis and determine a treatment.

For decades, it has been reproducibly demonstrated that astronauts journeying in space for even a few days return to earth with a significant, symptomatic anemia. A previously unsuspected physiologic process that selectively hemolyzes the youngest circulating red blood cells under conditions of red cell excess, termed neocytolysis, is responsible for this change. This process is operative not only in space flight, but it is generalizable to other physiologic adaptive and pathophysiologic maladaptive situations. For example, neocytolysis occurs when polycythemic individuals acclimated to high altitude are transported to sea level and can be prevented by erythropoietin (EPO) injections. Renal failure represents a pathophysiologic situation in which EPO is depressed, and neocytolysis may be related to the anemia of renal failure. The recognition of neocytolysis is leading to a fresh look at the basis underlying a number of hematologic disorders.

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Space Applications
Information Pending

Earth Applications
Information Pending

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Operational Requirements
Information Pending

Operational Protocols
Blood samples drawn from astronauts before and after a short duration space flight to ISS will be analyzed by investigators to determine the factors which contribute to neocytolysis and determine a treatment.

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Results/More Information

Information Pending

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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

    Rizzo AM, Tell G, Vascotto C, Costessi A, Arena S, Scaloni A, Cosulich ME.  Activation of human T lymphocytes under conditions similar to those that occur during exposure to microgravity: A proteomics study. Proteomics. 2005; 5(7): 1827-1837.

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Related Websites
The information on this page is provided courtesy of the ESA Erasmus Experiment Archive.
Columbus Mission - European Experiment Programme

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image Healthy red blood cells (upper left) are smooth and round. Hemolytic red blood cells (lower right). Image courtesy of The Cleveland Clinic, Cleveland, OH.
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