Morphofunctional Characteristic of Blood Cells and the Intensity of Erythropoiesis in Humans by the Influence of Factors of Space Flight (Gematologia (Haematology)) - 05.10.17

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Erythropoiesis is the production of new red blood cells and removal of old ones. This investigation examined that process to determine the ideal level of red blood cells astronauts need to readapt to terrestrial gravity. Results confirmed that the anemia astronauts often experience in space is caused by many factors in addition to decreased red blood cell production. Those factors may include ineffective erythropoiesis, cell metabolism changes, and premature removal of red blood cells from the bloodstream. The data will support future diagnosis and treatment of space anemia and related conditions in spaceflight and blood system conditions on Earth.

The following content was provided by S M. Ivanova, and is maintained in a database by the ISS Program Science Office.
Experiment Details


Principal Investigator(s)
S M. Ivanova, Institute of Medical and Biological Problems of Russian Academy of Sciences (IMBP RAS), Russia

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Sponsoring Space Agency
Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos)

Sponsoring Organization
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Research Benefits
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ISS Expedition Duration
April 2004 - September 2006

Expeditions Assigned

Previous Missions
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Experiment Description

Research Overview
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Deriving new data on the space flight factors impact on the human blood system to extend diagnostic and prognostic capabilities of detecting mechanisms of arising shifts in hematologic indices ("space anemia", lymphocytosis).

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Space Applications
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Earth Applications
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Operational Requirements and Protocols
Samples of venous blood in KV-03 container; Eritrotsit' kit with fingertip blood samples; Data on hemoglobin content transmitted via radio links; The logbook sheets with crew members' records.
Collecting samples of venous and capillary blood with the aim: to study erythrocyte forms; to investigate metabolism of erythrocytes, cell membrane conditions, indices of ferrum metabolism and erythropoetin content in blood.

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Decadal Survey Recommendations

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Results/More Information

Physical and biochemical changes in red blood cell (RBC or erythrocyte) have been detected within 24-hours after long-term space flight and are assumed to be the results of hypoxia (oxygen deprived) during long-term space missions. Erythrocyte shape, plasma membrane viscosity, and selective permeability were studied along with the oxygen (O2) content and its retention efficiency by hemoglobin. Blood samples were collected 30 days before launch and then on the 1st, 6–8th, and 13–15th days after landing from cosmonauts participating in missions of 179–196 days over ISS Expeditions 7–12. Decrease in normal erythrocyte count and hemoglobin content accompanied by an increase in altered and less efficient erythrocyte forms, reduction in the plasma membrane permeability and cell metabolism, increase in the relative cholesterol concentration, and decrease in the level of phospholipids (the major lipids of cell membranes) in the plasma membrane have been recorded. Erythrocytes average volume, thickness, and specificity increase, whereas the average surface area decreases. Increase of the rigidity of the RBC’s outer and inner membrane regions changes its optimal shape, normally a biconcave disc or “discocyte”, for oxygen diffusion into the cell. Altered erythrocytes also lack the ability to rapidly and reversibly change shape to pass freely through the spleen (a blood filtering organ) which may considerably affect their lifespan. It is important to confirm that space flight conditions (microgravity, electromagnetic fields, radiation, loss in strength, and mental stress) can cause changes in the state of the erythrocyte as well as hemoglobin’s ability to bind and release oxygen since these factors can regulate the development of cellular oxygen starvation in crewmembers during long-term space flight and early readaptation to the terrestrial conditions. The fluidity of plasma membranes in surface regions of RBCs was found to undergo a reversible decrease during 13-15 days following long-term space flights, which was accompanied by a reversible increase in relative cholesterol content. It is known that the permeability of an erythrocyte’s plasma membrane determines its shape, and high cholesterol reduces the membrane’s fluidity which can result in lessening of elasticity, permeability to O2 and, therefore, decreased oxygenation of hemoglobin and available oxygen given to tissue. Cosmonauts’ RBC analysis revealed an increase in ionic activity as well as a decrease in number of discocytes and increase in number of spherocytes (spherical), echinocytes (spiney), stomatocytes (mouth-like), and knizocytes (dual concavity). Most of the observed changes returned to normal about 2 weeks after landing. More future detailed experiments will enhance our understanding of the relationship between different time-scale processes taking place in erythrocyte cytoplasm, membrane, and blood plasma in the period of early rehabilitation after prolonged exposure to microgravity.

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Results Publications

    Ivanova SM, Maksimov GV, Morukov BV, Yarlikova YV, Labetskaya OI, Luneva OG, Maksimova NV, Brazhe NA, Bryzgalova NY, Parshina EY.  Role of the Elasticity and Permeability of the Plasma Membrane of Erythrocytes in Regulating the Effectiveness of Hemoglobin Oxygen Transport in Humans after Completion of a Spaceflight. Aviakosmicheskaia i Ekologicheskaia Meditsina (Aerospace and Environmental Medicine). 2007; 41(2): 41-44.

    Ivanova SM, Morukov BV, Labetskaya OI, Yarlikova YV, Levina AA, Shishkanova ZG.  Red Blood of Cosmonauts During Missions Aboard the International Space Station (ISS). Human Physiology. 2010 December 24; 36(7): 877-881. DOI: 10.1134/S0362119710070236. [Original Russian Text © S.M. Ivanova, B.V. Morukov, O.I. Labetskaya, Yu.V. Yarlikova, A.A. Levina, Z.G. Shishkanova, 2007, published in Aviakosmicheskaya i Ekologicheskaya Meditsina, 2007, Vol. 41, No. 6, pp. 28–33.]

    Ivanova SM, Brazhe NA, Luneva OG, Yarlikova YV, Labetskaya OI, Parshina EY, Baizhumanov AA, Maksimov GV, Morukov BV.  Physical-chemical Properties of Plasma Membrane and Function of Erythrocytes of Cosmonauts After Long-term Space Flight. Acta Astronautica. 2011; 68: 1517-1522. DOI: 10.1016/j.actaastro.2010.06.046.

    Ivanova SM, Morukov BV, Labetskaya OI, Yarlikova YV, Levina AA, Kozinets GI.  Morphobiochemical research on the red blood cell system in primary crewmembers on the International Space Station. Aviakosmicheskaia i Ekologicheskaia Meditsina (Aerospace and Environmental Medicine). 2006; 40(3): 9-16.

    Grigoriev AI, Ivanova SM, Morukov BV, Maksimov GV.  Development of Cell Hypoxia Induced by Factors of Long-term Spaceflight. Doklady Biochemistry and Biophysics. 2008; 422: 308-311. DOI: 10.1134/S1607672908050141. PMID: 19024564.

    Morukov BV, Ivanova SM, Maksimov GV, Yarlikova YV, Labetskaya OI, Luneva OG, Maksimova NV, Brazhe NA, Bryzgalova NY, Parshina EY, Nemirovskaya TL.  Investigation of the fluidity and permeability of human erythrocyte plasma membrane and the efficacy of oxygen transfer by hemoglobin during rehabilitation period after space flight. Journal of Gravitational Physiology. 2006; 13(1): 139-141.

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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
Energia - Science Research on the ISS Russian Segment

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image Plasma-03 centrifuge for blood separation into serum and plasma. Image courtesy of Russian Space Agency (Energia Website).
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