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The effects of microgravity on aging of the immune system and Alzheimer’s

Prof. Michal Schwartz, Department of Neurobiology, Weizmann Institute, Rehovot

Prof. Schwartz’s team studies the changes taking place in the understanding of brain/immune system interactions, realizing that the immune system plays a key lifelong role in the function and rehabilitation of the brain, as well as resiliency in stressful situations. The team has shown that immune aging is a key factor that determines the timing, severity and onset speed of dementia, including Alzheimer’s. In addition it has been found that the immune system is not the main factor in dementia. Its malfunction and exhaustion both contribute to the acceleration of the disease. Immunological exhaustion may be accelerated by environmental factors such as nutrition, sleeplessness, the circadian cycle and mental state.

Prof. Schwartz’s team proposes, as part of the Rakia Mission, to study whether states of weightlessness might affect the immune system, with an effect on brain functions.
Characterization of the immunological changes related to microgravity can potentially help identify nutritional factors which can protect against such effects. The results may identify new activation pathways and may highlight opportunities for therapeutic interventions, which may serve to slow down the immunodeficiencies which influence accelerated cognitive loss related to aging and Alzheimer’s.

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