Publication Date

Spring 5-26-2021

Degree Type

Master's Project

Degree Name

Master of Science in Bioinformatics (MSBI)

Department

Computer Science

First Advisor

Philip Heller

Keywords

differential gene expression, microgravity, immune system.

Abstract

With increases in space travel and a desire to inhabit the moon and Mars comes a pressing need to understand the impact of spaceflight on the body. Some effects are already known, such as reduced cardiac function and bone loss, but one area that needs to be further explored is the immune system. Differential gene expression analysis of mice thymi was performed to determine the impact of spaceflight on the immune system. The dataset that was analyzed, GLDS-289, was obtained from GeneLab, a space-omics database developed by NASA. Differential gene expression analysis was accomplished using a Nextflow implementation of GeneLab’s RNA-Seq Consensus Pipeline. The results showed that microgravity has a significant effect on multiple cellular processes, such as regulation of the cell cycle and DNA organization. These changes in gene expression reduce the proliferation of new immune cells, hindering the immune response and resulting in a compromised immune system that is more prone to infection. Artificial gravity partially mitigates the impact of microgravity, but it does not completely rescue the body from the effects of spaceflight. Further research into the effect of microgravity on the immune system must be done before humans can safely inhabit the moon and beyond.

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