To date, the GeneLab Data Repository comprises 53 total rodent datasets developed from 29 spaceflight and 24 ground-based studies, each of which are helping pave the way for hypothesis-driven research that will ultimately enable humans to become a multi-planet species.
Humans have been traveling to space for more than 50 years and extensive analysis of the effects of these adventures on our bodies has revealed that multiple organ systems are influenced by the novel conditions associated with spaceflight. During space travel, our bodies are exposed not only to microgravity, but also to the stresses associated with exiting and returning to Earth’s atmosphere, confinement in a closed environment, space radiation, changes in gas composition, and an altered diet, all of which may contribute to the observed health effects. On Earth, research involving rodents plays an essential role in our understanding of human disease and our ability to evaluate new therapeutics. Similarly, experimentation with rodents in space allows for a comprehensive evaluation of the physiologic and mechanistic changes associated with spaceflight, as well as potential mitigation strategies, that goes beyond what is possible with human studies.
Through collaborations with commercial, academic, and government entities, rodent research has enabled investigators to study the effects of the space environment on health and disease in areas of musculoskeletal systems, circadian rhythm, cardiology, ophthalmology, metabolism, the microbiome, and behavior. Results from these studies contribute to the scientific community not only via the primary investigation but also through banked samples that are shared in publicly available data repositories like GeneLab and the Biospecimen Sharing Program (BSP). Following each flight, the BSP collects numerous tissues and harvests several samples to be distributed from the Space Life and Physical Sciences to Principal Investigators through the Ames Life Science Data Archive, thereby maximizing the science return of each mission.
GeneLab is a key player in our understanding of the molecular mechanisms that are altered during spaceflight. Through the evaluation of tissues from mice flown aboard Space Shuttle missions and, more recently, by analyzing tissue samples from mice that were housed on the ISS, GeneLab has established a multi-omics database to enable the examination of the molecular responses of multiple mouse tissues to the spaceflight environment. In addition to spaceflight data, GeneLab also hosts bioinformatics data from ground-based studies that mimic the spaceflight environment including radiation and microgravity-simulated experiments, extending our understanding of these specific aspects of spaceflight.
In the up-coming months, GeneLab will evaluate tissue samples collected from the most recent rodent research experiments through the BSP thereby expanding our database and with it, our ability to begin to understand how humans adapt to spaceflight.