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The benefits of space medicine

Space research has paved the way for many discoveries over the past few years. It has proved to be quite beneficial in finding many new things in the field of health, transportation, safety measure, industry and many more. A lot has been discovered and invented due to space research. Those things are benefitting humanity in many ways, from early detection of illnesses, statistical studies that help in epidemiology, and many others. Space medicine could be very beneficial in future space exhibitions and right here on earth as well. The machines and technology invented and discovered, through the journey to getting to space and in ensuring the safety and health of the people that have been and will be going out to space, has proved to be very helpful in developing the healthcare in space as well as on earth. Today in this article I will be discussing the many inventions and discoveries, brought upon through research in relation to space medicine, and how it has and could help in further expanding and bettering the health care in space and on earth.

Problems in space

Astronaunts and scientists have many different concerns for the human body, that they aim to tackle, when it comes to going into space. One of the biggest concerns is with radiation. The space vehicles such as the ISS have thick protective shielding for the people inside it. The earth’s magnetic field and atmosphere is also something that provides some level of protection from the radiation. The major concern is when astronauts start to, possibly in the future, go longer distances and further away from the earth, then they will be more exposed to this radiation due to lack of protection from the earth’s magnetic field and atmosphere (Stanley, 2020).

Another concern for astronauts in space is bone loss. There are exercise devices on the vehicles usually taken to space. These devices help with reducing the bone loss. But to go further into space they might need to take smaller devices, and the ones they have available right now are not small, so they might not be able to travel far with them.

Eyes are another issue when it comes to space travel. There are times where some astronauts experience change in the shape of the eye ball, swelling of the optic nerve, and changes in their vision. These are all problems that effect astronauts and could further effect them incase of future space expeditions where the astronauts might be going further and further into space. 

Devices and inventions

Negative effects are not the only thing that come to the body in the case of space travel, there are some positive things that have come out of travelling to space. Both in the development of technologies that help us understand outerspace more and in tackling health issues that plaque us here on earth.

Surgery Robots: A Canadian technology findings in the International Space Station (ISS) have made it possible for some wonderful innovations in operating rooms. The same expertise that powered some of Canada’s space robots, known as Canadarm, Canadarm2 and Dextre, was used to create a very precise and capable robotic arm that can perform brain surgeries that were otherwise deemed impossible. One such robotic arm is called neuroArm. That same expertise was also used to create Modus V, which is a second generation robotic digital microscope, which helped patients with many different brain and spine conditions. These technologies are making it easier for neurosurgeons to perform difficult brain surgeries with a lot more safety and efficiency (Canadian Space Agency, 2020).

Remote Sensing: Remove sensing is done by placing a sensor on a satellite or aircraft to be able to collect data from a far. The way in which the sensor works is by detecting electromagnetic radiation(EMR) reflected from the earth. This EMR may be emitted by the sun or it may be actively emitted by a satellite or aircraft. The EMR is then detected and processed in order to determine the different parameters that help interpret the earth’s surface. Examples of such parameters are radiological detection of surface temperature, sea temperature, land aptitude, rainfall, humidity, air pollutants, livestock, sea bacteria concentration, population density, and many more. All this information recieved can be used to help the earth and humanity in so many different ways. An example would be in planning health strategies based on previous associations that may help in disease mitigation. One really good use of remote sensing is in determining the relationship between Infectious diseases and environmental parameters. A good example of this is its use in helping guide public health policies for malaria. The remote sensing data was used to investigate malaria cases in relation to rainfall, vegetation and surface temperature.

Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS): Different countries have their own GNSS with its own name. The GNSS is a group of satellites, that tracks moving objects, this allows for individuals to locate their position, on or near earth, but for them to be able to do that they require an antenna that recieves signals continuesly from the satellite and a reciever that translates those signals. After the signal is recieved, another device then displays the data on a map that enables users to understand them easily. The GNSS has been and is being used to research many different topics such as non-communicable diseases and in tracking communicable diseases. It has also been used to improve transportation by preventing accidents and avoiding traffic jams during emergencies, which in turn improves public health. Not only has it been used to research physical health, but also psychological, such as happiness in relation to the location of individuals. It found that people living in natural environmental areas were happier than people living in urban areas (Shirah, 2023).

Research and development

Physiological changes that have been discovered in the space microgravity environment has offered us some insight into earth based pathologies. An example of such changes is in the research of the cardiovascular system of astronauts in long duration spaceflight. The research has shown an increase in insulin resistance and accelerated atherosclerosis in the astronauts, which is basically reflecting early aging. Some other astronauts experience a decline in their immune system and their vision. Another thing is that the extreme environment and microgravity allows for the discovery and development of new drugs, which is also due to the research and the discoveries it has brought upon us in relation to metabolic changes, protein and nucleic acid crystallization, pathway analysis, and drug efficacy comparison.

Tissue Chips Subtitue Human Subjects: Tissue chips are device that help scientists experiment on living cells that are similar to those of a human tissue and organ cells. In space, these cells assemble and behave just like they would in the inside of a human, but they cannot do that on earth, which makes space the perfect place to do these experiments. These tissue cells are very helpful in research and development of the human body and health because 1st of all it reduces the need to use animals as test subjects, and since these tissues are small, unlike a full human being, multiple tubes of it can be sent to space and kept there for a long duration of time for research purposes, and in turn helping prevent or even eradicate many diseases.

Immune System: Since astronauts experience a decline in their immune system due to microgravity, and this imitates that of an aging person on earth, the space environment can provide insights into age related issues in the immune system. There was an experiment done in space that showed us that microgravity can effect the activation of T cells. These are developed from stem cells in the bone marrow and they help protect our bodies from infections and helps fight cancer. These types of experiments can lead us to the discovery of new drugs that helps in strengthening the immune system, or it could be brought down to earth to help in treating auto-immune diseases.

Postpartum Hemorrage (PPH): PPH is considered the leading cause of death and morbidity after childbirth. It is responsible for approximately 150,000 maternal deaths annually, that is quarter of the total maternal deaths worldwide. Astronauts wear these inflated G-suits that are designed to apply pressure to their bodies to prevent blood from pooling in their legs. This can cause them to pass out during the acceleration of take-off and when they return to earth’s gravity after a spaceflight. NASA has modified the G-suit into a pressure adjustable suit that is suitable for hospital settings. In a case of PPH where the bleeding continued for weeks after childbirth, everything was tried in order to stop the bleeding, including nine surgical procedures, the modified G-suit was used and after only 10 hours in the hospital, the bleeding stopped and the woman started to recover. A study done in 2004 looked at 14 cases of PPH in Pakistan. The G-suit was used as the first line of management and it assisted in saving the lives of 13 of those patients (Shirah, 2023).

Conclusion

I have discussed the advances in space research and how it has helped and continues to help in advancing the health care on earth and in space. There are still many of those inventions and discoveries that I haven’t mentioned in this article, so this is merely an overview of all the amazing discoveries we have made since the beginning of space research and exploration. Still, further research and discoveries that are being done everyday will help us as humans live a more healthy, safe, and peaceful life. It will also help better our environment and in turn standard of living as we go further into the future. Space exploration will only get longer, harder, and more complex, so in order for us to be able to further our travels and discoveries in outer space it will be necessary to continue our research and advances in technology. I hope that this article gives you a better insight into the multitude of inventions and discoveries that came into view due to space exploration and how it has helped us vastly on earth with our healthcare and wellness.

References

Shirah, B, Bukhari H, Pandya S, et al. (2023). Benefits of Space Medicine Research for Healthcare on Earth. cureus.com

Stanley B. (2020, May 13). The Rise of Space Medicine, and How It Benefits Those on Earth and Beyond. onlinemeded.com

Canadian Space Agency. (2020, December 11). Health Care with space exploration.

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