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USA Scientist Awarded Grant to Reduce Risks to Astronauts’ Health

USA Scientist Awarded Grant to Reduce Risks to Astronauts’ Health

MOBILE, Ala. – Astronauts are exposed to numerous conditions that are detrimental to their health, not only while in space but potentially long after they return to earth. With a grant totaling $918,940 from the Translational Research Institute for Space Health (TRISH), scientists at the Frederick P. Whiddon College of Medicine at the University of South Alabama will test means to reduce oxidative damage to cells and tissues, and better protect the health and well-being of astronauts. 

Marie Migaud, Ph.D., a professor of pharmacology at the Whiddon College of Medicine and a researcher at the USA Health Mitchell Cancer Institute, is principal investigator of the project, which will begin in October and will be funded over a two-year period. The award is part of the NASA-funded institute’s Biomedical Research Advances for Space Health solicitation, which invests in emerging science with the potential to reduce risks to human health and performance during deep-space exploration. 

Astronauts embarking on Artemis missions to the moon and Mars will be exposed to conditions such as ionizing radiation, microgravity and metabolic stressors that have been shown to cause cellular and tissue damage throughout the body. Migaud’s study will test ways to mitigate the risks to astronauts’ health.

“We have identified some chemicals generated inside cells under conditions that promote oxidative damage in cells and tissues,” Migaud said. “We propose that these chemicals are interfering with how cells ward off the effects of oxidative damage, and plan to test means that reduce the formation of these toxins, with the intent to improve how cells protect themselves in space and to help better protect space travelers.” 

Migaud said the chemicals generated under stress become more abundant as we age. “Therefore, this research could be relevant to the process of aging and how we become less resilient to health stressors, including how we respond to medicines,” she said.

Co-investigators on the project are Natalie Gassman, Ph.D., at the University of Alabama at Birmingham; Janice Pluth, Ph.D., at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas; and Bryce Nickels, Ph.D., at Rutgers University. Faisal Hayat, Ph.D., a senior research associate in Migaud’s laboratory, developed the chemistry that enables the proposed study, and he will be essential to the project. 

TRISH is a partner of NASA’s Human Research Program and is funded through a cooperative agreement with NASA to Baylor College of Medicine. 

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