This review is focused on sex and gender effects on immunological alterations occurring during space flight. Sex differences in immune function and the outcome of inflammatory, infectious, and autoimmune diseases are well documented. The work of the Immunology Workgroup identified numerous reasons why there could be sex and/or gender differences observed during and after spaceflight, but thus far, there has been very little investigation in this area of research. In most cases, this is due to either a low total number of subjects or the minimal number of female flight crew members available for these studies. Thus, the availability of a sufficient number of female subjects to enable statistical analysis of the data has been a limiting factor. As the inclusion of female crew members has increased in the recent past, such studies should be possible in the future. It is very difficult to obtain immunologic and infectious data in small animals that can be usefully extrapolated to humans undergoing spaceflight. Thus, it is recommended by the Immunology Workgroup that a greater emphasis be placed on studying astronauts themselves, with a focus on long-term evaluations of specific, known infectious risks.
ASJC Scopus subject areas