Health & Science

Baylor Wins $246 Million NASA Grant For More Research On Astronaut Health

Baylor will launch the NASA Translational Research Institute on October 1, using a “bench-to-spaceflight” model to speed the movement of new ideas from the lab bench to space.

Visual Impairment Intracranial Pressure Syndrome was identified in 2005 and is currently NASA’s leading spaceflight-related health risk. Here, NASA astronaut Karen Nyberg of NASA uses a fundoscope to image her eye while aboard the space station.
Visual Impairment Intracranial Pressure Syndrome was identified in 2005 and is currently NASA’s leading spaceflight-related health risk. Here, NASA astronaut Karen Nyberg of NASA uses a fundoscope to image her eye while aboard the space station.

NASA just awarded Baylor College of Medicine a large grant to create the NASA Translational Research Institute, focused on finding new ideas and health treatments for long-duration space flight missions, including a journey to Mars.  The institute will launch Oct. 1.

Baylor researchers have been working in this area for many years, and is already home to The Center for Space Medicine.  

The NASA grant could be worth as much as $246 million over six years, with the potential to expand to 12 years.

Health and Science reporter Carrie Feibel sat down with the Center’s director, Dr. Jeffrey Sutton, M.D., Ph.D. to learn more about space medicine.

Feibel: “I’m not sure everyone knows that Baylor actually has a Center for Space Medicine. What is space medicine?”

Sutton: “Space medicine is the area of medicine that deals with human adaptation and the health and medical care of astronauts in the space medicine.”

Feibel: “What kind of research is already happening in this area?”

Sutton: “First of all, we’re very interested in how the body adapts to the space environment. We’re seeing new syndromes that have not been previously recognized, for example, changes to the astronaut’s vision, to the shape of their eye, and to other effects on the nervous system. It’s a brand new area. We do research related to protecting the astronauts from the harsh environment that’s induced by radiation.”

Feibel: “Can we theorize how that radiation might affect their body? Is the biggest concern cancer?”

Sutton: “The radiation risks involve cancer but they also involve acute radiation problems. And, specifically, what are the effects of space radiation beyond low-earth orbit, on the heart and on the brain? And there’s some early evidence to suggest that space radiation might be harmful to the heart and to the coronary arteries with accelerated atherosclerosis.”

The conversation also touched on issues of mental health, sleep cycles in space, social interaction during long voyages, and the use of medical devices in space and on earth. To hear the full conversation, click on the audio play button above.

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Florian Martin

Florian Martin

Business Reporter

Florian Martin is currently the News 88.7 business reporter. Florian’s stories can frequently be heard on other public radio stations throughout Texas and on NPR nationwide. Some of them have earned him awards from Texas AP Broadcasters, the Houston Press Club, National Association of Real Estate Editors, and Public Radio...

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