Your health problem can be solved from outer space

Last March, describing the splashdown of some astronauts, a NASA spokesperson noted that they had conducted more than 200 medical tests in the six months they spent aboard the International Space Station (ISS), indicating how promising space is for finding answers. Saves lives.

The solution to your health problem will come from space, not science fiction

Image of Proba-2, the second in a series of ESA satellites to test instruments and technologies for the spacecraft and carry out scientific studies. EFE

Can health problems be solved from space? Science fiction? I do not know.

Research on health in space began nearly 24 years ago, almost 24 years ago, from the moment the first man was sent to the ISS, with a goal as simple as the basics: “Ensure the health of astronauts in space, exotic and stressful,” Angelique Vaughn. Ombergen, a biomedical researcher at the European Space Agency (ESA), explains to EFE.

‘Gold’ for medical research

“A better understanding of what happens to the human body and mind in space is essential to guarantee the safety of astronauts in an environment that can be highly impacted by microgravity, radiation or lack of contact with your loved ones,” he continues.

After the first trips to space, scientists realized that astronauts are ideal subjects for medical research and health, as a few humans are subjected to complete monitoring 24 hours a day.

and astronauts: before, during and after each mission.

“The medical monitoring of astronauts in space and all the data it generates is gold for medical research. Monitoring a person’s health is almost impossible in the real world,” emphasizes the European Space Agency.

Understanding Osteoporosis

Solving one of the challenges astronauts face in space: the 1 to 2% loss of bone density per month due to microgravity, for example, has helped to understand and find solutions to osteoporosis, which reduces the quality of life for millions. of the people.

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From the beginning, this process of ‘express osteoporosis’ led to the invention of the first 3D scanners to study the skeletal structures of astronauts, which was crucial for improving knowledge about this and other diseases.

In osteoporosis, especially in space research, the acidity of the body accelerates the loss of bone mass, and the design of a compound that protects against bone and muscle mass can be counteracted by taking less salt or bicarbonate. Stimulates their growth.

Trials of the treatment, with mice sent to the ISS as part of ESA’s ‘Mighty Mice in Space’ research, indicate it could be used to prevent and treat bone and muscle loss in people on Earth.

Health in Space: A Response to Diverse Diseases

Beyond osteoporosis, experts agree, space research is key to answering current grand challenges in medicine, such as cancer or brain diseases.

Examples are numerous and few are close, such as the Polytechnic University of Madrid and Elecnor, an Albacete company that adapted spatial image analysis techniques to brain vibrations for early detection of Alzheimer’s disease with the AlzTools 3D slicer application.

A team of researchers from the Hospital Clinic of Salk (California) and Barcelona, ​​for the first time, was able to create from stem cells one of the mini-kidneys provided by the Barcelona Center for Regenerative Medicine (CMRP). . EFE

Regenerative medicine

Apart from disease modeling, scientists agree that regenerative medicine will be the most promising field of health research in space in the coming years.

It is a specialty based on restoration of functions of damaged tissues or organs through stem cells, tissue engineering and organs created from biomaterials or 3D bioprinting.

Stem cells are important as the ‘raw material’ of the body, as the rest of the cells with specialized functions are developed from them, as well as organelles, which mimic real organs and help to understand and treat the developmental diseases that affect them.

“The microgravity environment of low Earth orbit is ideal for the generation of large-scale stem cells or organoids, two keys to the advancement of regenerative medicine,” explains Arun Sharma, one of the leading researchers in the field to EFE at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles.

Sharma’s team, in collaboration with aerospace company Axiom, has been sending stem cells into space for a year, demonstrating that microgravity makes the production of large batches more efficient.

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“The production of these stem cells still has some limitations, and microgravity can overcome them because it facilitates their proliferation and potency. Our challenge is to mass-produce them in space to use them for all kinds of applications and take giant steps in medicine,” he says.

Health in Space: Cancer Treatments

Microgravity research on the ISS enables organoids to be created from tumor cells biopsied from patients without the need to grow them in a laboratory, as is done on Earth.

The development of these organoids provides valuable clues about signaling pathways or possible treatments to combat the tumorigenic nature of cells, as explained on several occasions by Sara Garcia, a molecular biologist at the Spanish National Cancer Research Center and reserve astronaut.

These studies in space are already helping to better understand many types of cancer, from diffuse midline gliomas, which are more aggressive in children, to colon cancer, which is common.

bio production

Bioprinting of human tissue is a focus of ESA’s clinical research, van Ombergen emphasizes.

“We recently did a study showing that microgravity has a negative effect on skin lesions. If we’re thinking about sending humans to Mars, we need to prepare them first to bioprint skin tissue in space if we want to cover the wound. “Point.

It sounds like science fiction but it’s true: the answers to saving thousands of lives and improving health on Earth already come from space.

Members of the International Space Station (ISS) mission, (ID), NASA astronaut Dan Pettit, Russian Oleg Kononenko, and Dutch Andrey Kuipers, in November 2011. EFE/Maxim Shipenkov

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