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Research finds how astronauts’ immune systems in space are weakened

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Researchers have revealed evidence of adverse effects on the human body when astronauts travel to space in a microgravity environment impacting their immunity and decreasing the activity of genes in white blood cells, Reuters reported.

During the study, experts observed 14 astronauts who spent 4-1/2 to 6-1/2 months on the International Space Station (ISS).

The finding revealed that gene expression in these cells, also called leukocytes, quickly reduced when they move out from Earth and then returned to normal as they come to their natural habitat, researchers said.

The study — published in the journal Frontiers in Immunology — provides crucial information about why space travellers are more prone to infections during flights, explaining how the human body’s ability to fight pathogens is less effective in space.

“A weaker immunity increases the risk of infectious diseases limiting astronauts’ ability to perform their very demanding work in space. If an infection or an immune-related condition was to evolve to a severe state requiring medical care, astronauts while in space would have limited access to care and medication,” said the lead author of the study Odette Laneuville of the University of Ottawa in Canada.

Leukocytes are formed in the bone marrow and are responsible for protecting humans from outside infections by producing antibody proteins and certain genes regulate the release of such proteins.

The study found that gene expression in 247 genes in leukocytes was at about one-third of the normal levels while in space.

In this image, ISS can be seen. — Nasa
In this image, ISS can be seen. — Nasa

This happened within the first few days in space but then remained at a stable level. The genes typically returned to normal behaviour within about a month of an astronaut’s return to Earth.

“White blood cells are very sensitive to the environment of space. They trade their specialized immune functions to take care of cell maintenance or housekeeping roles. Before this paper, we knew of immune dysfunction but not of the mechanisms,” said co-author Guy Trudel, an Ottawa Hospital rehabilitation medicine specialist.

Discovering altered gene behaviour in leukocytes is “a significant step toward understanding human immune dysregulation in space,” Trudel added.

This altered behaviour, the researchers said, may result from a phenomenon called “fluid shift” in which blood in the absence of Earth’s gravitational pull is redistributed from the lower to the upper part of the body. It is unlikely that greater solar radiation exposure in space was the culprit, they added.

“New and specific countermeasures will be needed,” Trudel said.

Scientists previously documented astronauts experiencing immune dysfunction in space which included the reactivation of latent viruses such as Epstein-Barr, responsible for infectious mononucleosis; varicella-zoster, responsible for shingles; and herpes simplex 1, responsible for cold sores.

It also has been shown that astronauts in space shed more viral particles in their biological fluids — saliva and urine — increasing the risk of spreading pathogens to fellow astronauts whose own immune systems may be weakened.

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Users of WhatsApp will soon be able to lock chats on connected devices.

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Additionally, linked devices will now have access to the conversation lock feature. Users of WhatsApp will also soon have the option to tag their contacts in status updates.

Notably, WhatsApp users can link their devices to log in to the same account on different devices. However, several functions, such as conversation locks and status updates, are not accessible on the secondary devices.

Even if they are locked on the main conversations, anybody can still access your private chats on a connected device. WhatsApp is currently working on adding Chat Lock capability to connected devices in order to address this.

The chat lock feature on WhatsApp will soon be available on connected devices.

Prior to this, it was claimed that WhatsApp, which is owned by Meta, was developing new personalisation options for an iOS beta.

According to WABetaInfo, an update tracker portal for the instant messaging network, WhatsApp for iOS users will soon get the option to modify both the conversation bubble’s colour and the app’s primary colour scheme.

A feature that let beta testers choose the primary colour scheme of the WhatsApp iOS app from a selection of five colours was first tested back in January.

The instant messaging app is testing a feature that lets users change the colour of chat bubbles within conversations, though, in a new beta edition.

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Moon train operations are planned by NASA.

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The goal is to construct the first lunar train system, which will enable safe, independent, and effective cargo transportation on the moon, according to robotics specialist Ethan Schaler of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

He went on, “The day-to-day functioning of a sustainable lunar base in the 2030s will depend heavily on a robust, long-lasting robotic transport system.”

The Flexible Levitation on a Track, or FLOAT, is the name of the proposed lunar rail system. According to NASA, the establishment of a railway system on the moon is “critical to the daily operations.”

According to the space agency, the primary objective of FLOAT is to offer transportation services in regions of the moon where astronauts are engaged in activities. To do this, cargoes of lunar soil and other materials will need to be transported to various regions of the moon.

Each robot will be able to transport cargo of various sizes and shapes at a pace of roughly 1 mph (1.61 km/h), according to Dr. Schaler.

Notably, NASA also declared new initiatives last month to create and test new vehicle models intended for moon exploration.

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Pakistan’s lunar mission ‘ICUBE-Q’ reaches the moon orbit.

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Pakistan’s lunar mission (ICUBE-Q) entered orbit around the moon on Wednesday.

Pakistan’s historic lunar mission (ICUBE-Q) launched from Hainan, China, on Friday aboard China’s Chang’E6 spacecraft.

According to the IST, the satellite ICUBE-Q was planned and developed in partnership with China’s Shanghai University SJTU and Pakistan’s national space agency SUPARCO.

The ICUBE-Q orbiter is equipped with two optical cameras to image the lunar surface. ICUBE-Q has now been integrated into the Chang’e6 mission after successfully qualifying and testing it.

Chang’e6 is the sixth lunar exploration mission launched by China.

The launch event was streamed live on the IST website and social media platforms. Chang’6, China’s Lunar Mission, will land on the Moon’s far side to collect surface samples before returning to Earth for further research.

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