International Space Station
International Space Station

Antibodies developed at the University of Birmingham have been used by NASA to assess how long duration space flight affects the immune system.

The antibodies are part of a medical test called Seralite®-FLC ELISA, which was used in the year-long study of astronauts from the International Space Station to examine the effect of space flight on B cells, the white blood cells that make antibodies to help fight infection.

Reduced immune function during spaceflight has long been a concern for NASA, which has the ambitious goal of manned space flights to Mars by the 2030s. 

The study measured free light chains (FLCs) in plasma and saliva of 23 astronauts, using samples taken before, during and after spending 6 months in space.  FLCs are of interest because these proteins provide a near ‘real-time’ indicator of B cell function.

The sensitive measurement provided by the Seralite®-FLC ELISA test allowed researchers to monitor changes in the activity of blood cells before, during and after the mission. The samples analysed in the study were taken at baseline (5 months before launch), three times during the mission, immediately on return, and after 30 days back on Earth. 

Preliminary findings, presented at the American College of Sports Medicine, indicate that the competency of plasma cells (white blood cells circulating in the blood and produce antibodies) is maintained in microgravity, and indicates that the risk of infection may not be magnified in space missions of this duration.

The Seralite®-FLC ELISA is a sequential sandwich assay used to measure FLC in biological fluids for research and is available from Abingdon Health Ltd. 

Abingdon Health does its early stage R&D at the University of Birmingham’s bio-incubator, the BioHub Birmingham.  The company announced in May that it is developing a rapid diagnostic test for mastitis in dairy cows. 


For further information contact: Ruth Ashton, Reputation & Communications Development Manager, tel: + 44(0) 121 414 9090, mob: +44(0) 7989 558041, email:

About Seralite®-FLC ELISA

Seralite®-FLC ELISA uses a patented technology developed at the University of Birmingham and provides a rapid, sensitive and accurate measurement of kappa (K) and lambda (λ) immunoglobulin free light chains (FLCs) in biological fluids.  The test was developed and brought to market by Abingdon Health Ltd, and is available worldwide for research use.

 About the University of Birmingham

The University of Birmingham is ranked amongst the world’s top 100 institutions. Its work brings people from across the world to Birmingham, including researchers, teachers and more than 5,000 international students from over 150 countries.

 About Abingdon Health

Abingdon is a UK-based developer and manufacturer of lateral flow immunoassay tests and readers.  The company is based in Birmingham and York and conducts its early stage R&D at the BioHub Birmingham®. 

For further information about Abingdon Health contact:  Malcolm Briggs, Sales & Marketing Executive, Abingdon Health Ltd, tel: +44(0) 1904 406050, email:

 About University of Birmingham Enterprise

University of Birmingham Enterprise Ltd is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the University of Birmingham.  The company commercializes innovations arising from research, and enterprise training, funding, and a full technology transfer service for the University.  It also manages the University’s spinout portfolio, and business and bio-incubation services and facilities at the Birmingham Research Park.

 The Impact Of Long Duration Spaceflight On The Function Of Plasma Cells was presented at the American College of Sports Medicine on 31 May 2018.  A copy of the abstract (number 1394) is available at