B-cell homeostasis is maintained during long duration spaceflight

Guillaume Spielmann, Nadia Agha, Hawley Kunz, Richard J. Simpson, Brian Crucian, Satish Mehta, Mitzi Laughlin, John Campbell

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27 Citations (SciVal)
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Long-duration spaceflights reportedly induce immune dysregulation, which is considered a risk to astronaut safety and mission success. Recent studies have examined the impact of spaceflight on markers of adaptive and innate immunity, but no study, to date, has comprehensively evaluated humoral immunity and serological markers of B cell function. The aim of this study was to characterize changes in B cell numbers and phenotypes, along with plasma Igs and polyclonal free light chains (FLCs)—near-“real-time” biomarkers of Ig synthesis—in response to an ~6-mo mission to the International Space Station (ISS). Whole-blood samples were collected before flight, during flight (“Early flight,” “Mid-flight,” and “Late flight”), immediately upon return, and during a recovery period (R 18, R 30/R 33, and R 60/R 66) from 23 ISS crew members. B Cell counts and phenotypes were measured throughout the duration of the mission, along with total plasma Ig and FLC levels. There was no effect of spaceflight on the number and proportion of the different B cell subsets. There was no difference in kappa FLC between preflight samples and either in-flight or recovery samples (P 0.05), and only a marginal reduction was observed in lambda FLC levels upon return to Earth (P 0.05). Furthermore, IgG and IgM remained unchanged during and after spaceflight compared with preflight values (P 0.05). Of note, plasma IgA concentrations were elevated in-flight compared with baseline and recovery values (P 0.05). These results indicate that B cell homeostasis is maintained during long-duration spaceflight, advocating for potential in-flight vaccination as viable countermeasures against viral reactivation during exploration-class missions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)469-476
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Applied Physiology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2019


  • B cell homeostasis
  • Free light chains
  • Immunoglobulins
  • Long-duration spaceflight

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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