When investigating the molecular and biological changes that take place in space, models such as rodents, worms and yeasts are often used to study the effects and consequences of long-duration spaceflights to understand how microgravity affects humans in space. However, OHIO’s Nate Szewczyk, Ph.D., and several other researchers from around the world have published a paper proposing a program for the European Space Agency that could potentially revolutionize space medicine by routinely collecting biological samples from astronauts. for use with advanced technologies to understand the effects on their genes, mRNA, proteins and metabolites (commonly referred to as “omics” technologies).
The article, entitled “Routine omics collection is a golden opportunity for European human research in space and analog environment”, published in the journal Patterns, describes how omics profiling is being prepared to transform space medicine and improve occupational health care for astronauts. The paper’s authors expect that omics profiling will improve astronaut health and reduce the risks associated with spaceflight, which could boost mission success in more ambitious endeavors such as travel to Mars. In the paper, the group of researchers goes on to highlight the joint steps to be taken to design a standardized data source that can be used for years to come as data and science evolves.
“We lobbied for a routine omics collection program to become part of the standard measure for astronauts in the European Space Agency,” Szewczyk said. “By recovering and analyzing this data, we have the opportunity to further explore best practices in personalized medicine for the individuals sent into space.”
A twin study was conducted by NASA, in which the organization did molecular profiling of one person, which showed that it is possible to use large-scale data approaches to understand the health of astronauts. In the NASA study, they measured how fit the astronaut was before flight, during flight and after flight to collect their health information and how it may fluctuate in space. After being able to analyze and see the usefulness of this big data set, NASA decided to make it a standard approach in the future.
“We’ve benefited from NASA making this standard practice because we think it’s something other space agencies need to address to ensure they find the best approach to their astronaut’s health in space,” Szewczyk added. up.
One of Szewczyk’s colleagues, Brian Clark, Ph.D., who directs the Ohio Musculoskeletal and Neurological Institute (OMNI) at OHIO, noted, “It’s an exciting time for the field of astrobiology. For decades, we’ve known that spaceflight has significant pose risks to human health and that the physiological effects of long-duration spaceflight vary greatly from person to person.If you look at ten people who spend six months on the International Space Station, you see dramatically different reactions between people in things like the amount of muscle and bone loss they experience. Some experience a staggering amount of loss, while others do significantly better. The advent of omics technologies is clearly our best bet to understand what drives this variability and really advance personalized space medicine. knowledge that can be gained from these kinds of studies extends far beyond the The limits of space and has implications for traditional medicine, such as understanding the impact of long-term non-use that occurs after injury, reconstructive surgery, and disease. It’s great to see this call to action and we are extremely proud of Nate’s stature and influence in the space medicine field.”
The team that co-authored the paper consists of scientists, including Szewczyk, whose work focuses on space omics. They need to look at how NASA made the decision to take an omics approach to understanding the molecular and biological impact of astronauts in space and whether this measure is also something the European Space Agency should follow.
In addition to identifying whether this practice is beneficial to other space agencies, what types of data to collect, what sampling methods to use, and at what times, they are also looking at what can be measured with multi-omics approaches, such as the astronaut genome and which genes are expressed, which metabolites are present, are there changes in proteins and more.
“Thanks to innovations in science, instead of measuring models and translating that data to humans, we are now able to measure humans and look at an individual’s genome and predict whether their genome is at risk for cancer or diabetes. , or that a specific drug or may not work on them based on their genome,” Szewczyk said. “This is an opportunity to take the same modern molecular medicine approaches and use them on astronauts to identify potential health risks. It makes more sense than using models and a real opportunity for all space agencies to know and say that the astronauts they send into space are and will be safe.”
The team of researchers not only provides insight into how routine omics collection can improve astronaut health, but also assesses ethical and legal considerations relevant to omics data from European astronauts and spaceflight participants, with the aim of creating a policy landscape in which data as open as possible to maximize scientific potential, but as closed as necessary to protect data subjects.
Szewczyk is an Osteopathic Heritage Foundation Ralph S. Licklider, DO Endowed Professor of Molecular Medicine and Principal Investigator of the Ohio Musculoskeletal and Neurological Institute in the Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine. He has previously flown worms into space, analyzed what changed in them in space, and compared gene expressions in space to rodents and astronauts, looking for similarities in change, such as proteins that enable muscles to function and proteins that enable cells to function. to produce energy. He is currently following up the findings from these previous flights for two new studies that will fly to the International Space Station in the coming years.