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Heart experiences to help astronauts live better in space


An astronaut working with an experiment aboard the International Space Station.

Astronauts aboard the International Space Station are working hard on research directed by students and researchers from the University of Colorado Boulder.

Two cardiovascular tissue experiments were launched to the International Space Station aboard SpaceX CRS-27 on March 15, 2023, and BioServe CU Boulder Space Technologies developed the hardware for both. The research stems from NIH grants led by Stanford University and Johns Hopkins University.

“When astronauts go into space, it can have a negative impact on their cardiovascular systems,” said Stephanie Countryman, director of BioServe. “Our organs have evolved to function here on Earth, so they function differently in space. The goal of both projects is to better understand how these therapies may affect cardiovascular problems in Earthbound people, and to advance therapies that can be offered to astronauts before launch or while on Earth. outer space “.

BioServe has been designing, building, and flying life science research experiments and equipment in microgravity since 1987. Government space agencies, universities, and private companies such as SpaceX frequently contract with BioServe to take advantage of the Center’s long experience in space research.

The two experiments, launched on March 15, include specialized hardware developed by BioServe specifically for these projects and will also use BioServe’s Space Automated Bioproduct Lab, an orbital incubator that has been in use on the International Space Station since 2015.

Previous heart studies have shown that just four weeks of microgravity exposure causes significant changes in cell function and gene expression that may lead to long-term damage or atrophy of the heart muscle.

Heart experiences to help astronauts live better in space

One of the experiments and its enclosures before launch here on Earth. Credit: University of Colorado at Boulder

The Stanford experiment is using pared-down heart tissue to test drugs that can reduce microgravity-induced changes in the function of heart cells. Meanwhile, the Johns Hopkins project aims to study the functionality of human heart muscle cells and the potential for specific therapies to prevent negative effects.

While both projects aim to help astronauts in space, the research could also eventually improve the lives of people here on Earth who suffer from heart disease due to aging or abnormalities that cause a weak heart muscle.

“Being able to design devices to support research like this for cell cultures and tissue engineering is very specialized,” Countryman said.

In addition to hardware development, BioServe also conducts direct uplinks with astronauts to guide them through experiments. As a research facility and education center, BioServe employs full-time staff and students to advance their work.

“Undergrad and grad students are responsible for assembling hardware and instrument design and assisting during uplinks with the crew. Students are an integral part of operations,” Countryman said.

The disadvantage of working with astronauts is the frequent late nights. ISS astronauts live and work in Coordinated Universal Time, so the crew’s day begins at 1:30 a.m. Colorado time. This means that uplinks frequently occur long after most Americans are asleep.

“It’s a small price to pay to work with people in space,” Countryman said.

Provided by the University of Colorado at Boulder

the quote: Heart Experiments to Help Astronauts Live Better in Space (2023, April 10) Retrieved April 10, 2023 from https://phys.org/news/2023-04-heart-astronauts-space.html

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