Proposal by research team could revolutionize space medicine, improve astronaut health

Tue, 02 Aug 2022 05:32:57 GMT
Space Daily

Athens OH (SPX) Aug 02, 2022 Often when researching the molecular and biological changes that...

Often when researching the molecular and biological changes that happen in space, models such as rodents, worms, and yeast are used to study the effects and consequences of long-duration space flight as a way to understand how microgravity impacts humans in space.

OHIO's Nate Szewczyk, Ph.D., and several other researchers from around the world have published a paper that proposes a program for the European Space Agency that could potentially revolutionize space medicine by routinely collecting astronauts' biological samples from astronauts for use with cutting-edge technologies to understand the effects on their genes, mRNA, proteins, and metabolites.

The paper, titled "Routine omics collection is a golden opportunity for European human research in space and analog environments," published in the journal Patterns, details how omics profiling is primed to transform space medicine and improve occupational healthcare for astronauts.

In the NASA study, they measured how fit the astronaut was before flight, in flight, and after flight to gather their health information and how it may fluctuate in space.

"We took advantage of NASA making this standard practice because we feel it is something other space agencies need to address to ensure they are finding the best approach to their astronaut's health while in space," Szewczyk added.

For decades we have known that space flight poses substantial risks to human health and that the physiological effects of prolonged space flight vary tremendously from one person to the other.

"The advent of omics technologies is clearly our best bet to understand what drives this variability and truly advance personalized space medicine. The knowledge to be gained from these kinds of studies extends far beyond the confines of outer space and has implications for traditional medicine, such as understanding the impact of prolonged disuse that occurs following injury, reconstructive surgery, and illness. It is great to see this call to action and we are extremely proud of Nate's stature and influence in the space medicine field."

The team who coauthored the paper is comprised of scientists, including Szewczyk, whose work focuses on space omics.

"This is an opportunity to take the same modern molecular medicine approaches and use it on astronauts to identify potential health risks. It is more meaningful than using models and a real opportunity for all space agencies to know and say that the astronauts they're sending into space are and will be safe."

He has previously flown worms into space, analyzing what changed in them in space and comparing the gene expressions in space with rodents and astronauts, looking for commonalities in change like proteins that allows muscles to function and proteins that allow cells to produce energy.