Bacteria, fungi, and viruses can enter our intestines by the food we eat. Luckily, the epithelial cells that line our intestines function a strong barrier to stop these microorganisms from invading the remainder of bodies. A research group led by a biomedical scientist at the University of California, Riverside, has discovered that simulated microgravity, similar to that encountered in spaceflight, disrupts the functioning of the epithelial barrier even after removal from the microgravity environment.
The microgravity environment encountered in space have profound results on human physiology, resulting in medical symptoms and sicknesses together with gastroenteritis; earlier research has proven microgravity weakens the human immune system. Microgravity has additionally been proven to increase the intestinal disease-inflicting potential of food-borne bacteria comparable to salmonella.
The barrier operates of the intestinal epithelium, he added, is important for sustaining a healthy gut; when disrupted, it will probably result in elevated permeability or leakiness. This, in flip, can significantly improve the chance of infections and power inflammatory situations corresponding to inflammatory bowel disease, celiac disease, Type 1 diabetes, and liver disease.
McCole’s group used a rotating wall vessel—a bioreactor that maintains cells in a managed rotation environment that simulates close to weightlessness—to look at the influence of simulated microgravity on cultured intestinal epithelial cells.
Following culture for 18 days within the vessel, the group found intestinal epithelial cells showed the delayed formation of “tight junctions,” which are junctions that connect individual epithelial cells and are essential for maintaining impermeability. The rotating wall vessel additionally produces an altered pattern of tight junction assembly that’s retained as much as 14 days after the intestinal epithelial cells had been removed from the vessel.