June 23, 2024

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The solution to your health problem will come from space

The solution to your health problem will come from space

Last March, while recounting the fall of some astronauts, a NASA spokesman stated that during the six months they spent on the International Space Station (ISS). He has conducted more than 200 medical experiments, a number that demonstrates how promising space is for finding life-saving answers

Health research in space began from the moment the first person was sent to the International Space Station, almost 24 years ago, with a goal as simple as it is basic: “Ensuring the health of astronauts in a remote, diverse and stressful environment.”Angelique van Ombergen, a biomedical researcher at the European Space Agency (ESA), explains to EFE.


‘Gold’ for medical research “It was necessary to understand well what happens to the human body and mind in space to ensure the safety of astronauts in an environment with high impact due to microgravity, radiation or lack of contact with loved ones,” he continued.

Shortly after the first missions, LScientists have realized that astronauts are the best case studies for medical researchBecause few humans are subject to such comprehensive surveillance 24 hours a day for so long. The astronauts are: before, during and after each mission.

“The medical monitoring of astronauts and all the data it produces was and remains the gold of medical research. Such monitoring of a person’s health is almost impossible in the real world,” the ESA researcher emphasizes.

Osteoporosis relief

Osteoporosis

picture:iStock

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

In osteoporosis, specifically, space research has revealed fundamental issues such as that body acidity accelerates the loss of bone mass, and can be countered by preventively eating less salt or bicarbonate, to designing a compound that protects against osteoporosis and muscle mass and even stimulating its growth. .

Trials of this treatment, with mice sent to the International Space Station as part of ESA’s ‘Strong Mice in Space’ research, suggest it could be used to prevent and treat bone and muscle loss in humans on Earth.

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

The examples are countless, and some are close, such as the Polytechnic University of Madrid and the Spanish company Elecnor, which has adapted spatial image analysis techniques to brain resonance imaging for early detection of Alzheimer’s disease through the AlzTools 3D Slicer application.

Regenerative medicine

In addition to disease modelling, scientists agree that the most promising area of ​​space health research in the coming years will be regenerative medicine.

It’s about A specialty based on restoring the functions of damaged tissues or organs through stem cell repairand engineering tissues and organs created from biomaterials or 3D bioprinting.

Stem cells, as the body’s ‘raw material’, are essential as the rest of the cells with specialized functions are generated from them. Organoids are also being created, 3D structures that mimic real organs and whose development helps understand and treat diseases that affect them.

“The microgravity environment in low Earth orbit is ideal for the production of stem cells or large-scale organoids, which are key to advancing regenerative medicine,” Arun Sharma, one of the leading researchers in the field, tells EFE. At Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles.

Sharma’s team, in collaboration with the space company Axiom, sent stem cells into space for a year to prove that microgravity makes producing large batches more efficient. “The production of these stem cells still faces some limitations, and microgravity can overcome them because it facilitates their proliferation and effectiveness. Our challenge is to produce them in large quantities in space so that we can use them in all kinds of applications and make giant strides in medicine.

Cancer treatments

Colon Cancer.

picture:Private file

Microgravity research conducted on the International Space Station facilitates the creation of organoids from cancer cells taken from patients without the need to grow them in a laboratory, as is done on Earth.

The growth of these organelles provides researchers with valuable clues about them Signaling pathways or possible treatments to combat the nature of cancer cells, as Sara Garcia has explained on several occasionsMolecular biologist at the Spanish National Center for Cancer Research and reserve astronaut.

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

Biomanufacturing

Human tissue bioprinting is another focus of medical research at AEE, van Ombergen highlights.

“We recently did a study that told us that microgravity has a negative effect on skin lesions. If we are thinking about sending people to Mars, we should first prepare them to bioprint skin tissue in space in case they need to close a wound.” Point.

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

Effie Agency.

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