A COMPANY based in York is working with NASA to help understand how spaceflight affects the immune systems of astronauts.

Diagnostic company Abingdon Health, whose manufacturing facility is based at the National Agri-Food Innovation Campus (NAFIC), at Sand Hutton, was used during a study of 23 astronauts on the International Space Station.

The 12-month study examined the effects of spaceflight on the human body’s B-cells, which help fight infection, as the risk of reduced immune function during extended space missions is a key issue for NASA, which aims to have manned flights to Mars within the next 20 years.

The research – conducted by the University of Bath, Louisiana State University and the University of Houston – measured proteins in the astronauts’ plasma and saliva before, during and after their space missions using Abingdon Health’s Seralite-FLC ELISA product.

The study measured kappa and lambda free light chain (FLC), proteins in the astronauts’ bodily fluids, and preliminary findings from the research suggested the astronauts’ plasma cells were not affected by long periods in space at zero gravity, meaning the risk of infection does not increase.

David Pritchard, is the chief technology officer at Abingdon Health.

He said the study was important, and would likely lead to years more research to come.

David said: “Dr Guillaume Spielmann, the lead in the study, believes that the obvious next step will be to study how the immune function reacts to even longer periods in space – perhaps over several years – so that NASA and other space exploration organisations can be confident astronauts’ immune systems won’t be compromised during prolonged periods in space.”

Abingdon Health is a leading diagnostics company focused on developing, manufacturing and commercialising lateral flow immunoassay tests and readers for a range of sectors.

It moved to NAFIC in 2012, following the acquisition of government spin-out company Forsite Diagnostics Ltd.

In the past year it has further expanded its manufacturing footprint on the campus.

The NAFIC is home to a number of private companies and public sector bodies, including Fera Science, Covance, Innovenn, the Animal & Plant Health Agency and Public Health England, which work towards furthering the life sciences and the bioeconomy.