Since 1969, the Universities Space Research Association (USRA), a private, nonprofit corporation, has worked closely with NASA. USRA's Division of Space Biomedicine was founded in 1983 to address the biomedical issues faced by humans in space. Harrison Schmitt, lunar module pilot of Apollo 17, was named as the first Director of the Division. In late 1990, the Division was renamed the Division of Space Life Sciences (DSLS) reflecting a broader charter: "to stimulate, encourage, and assist research in the NASA life sciences." This charter continues today and is encapsulated within three broad programs: the Science Program, the Extramural Support Program and the Education Program.
Our DSLS Scientist of the Month is Virginia Wotring, Ph.D., for her poster, "Effects of radiation exposure and dietary iron on liver metabolic gene expression"
Liver function, especially the rate of its metabolic enzyme activities, determines the concentration of circulating drugs as well as the duration of their efficacy. Most pharmaceuticals are metabolized by the liver, and clinically-used medication doses are given with normal liver function in mind. A drug overdose can result in the case of a liver that is damaged and removing pharmaceuticals from the circulation at a rate slower than normal. Alternatively, if liver function is elevated and removing drugs from the system more quickly than usual, it would be as if too little drug had been given for effective treatment. Because of the importance of the liver in drug metabolism, we want to understand any effects of spaceflight on the enzymes of the liver.
Previously Featured Scientists of the Month
Our DSLS Scientist of the Month is Jessica Scott, Ph.D. for her poster, “Temporal Changes in Left Ventricular Mechanics: Impact of Bed Rest and Exercise,” which was presented at the 2014 Human Research Program Investigators’ Workshop, held in Galveston, Texas.
Current techniques used to assess cardiac function following spaceflight or head-down tilt bed rest (HDTBR) involve invasive and time consuming procedures such as Swan-Ganz catheterization or cardiac magnetic resonance imaging. An alternative approach, echocardiography, can monitor cardiac morphology and function via sequential measurements of left ventricular (LV) mass and ejection fraction (EF). However, LV mass and EF are insensitive measures of early (subclinical) cardiac deconditioning, and a decrease in LV mass and EF become evident only once significant deconditioning has already occurred.
Lori Ploutz-Snyder, Ph.D. is our Scientist of the Month for her poster, “Integrated Resistance and Aerobic Exercise Protects Fitness During Bed Rest,” from a recent publication in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, the American College of Sports Medicine’s (ACSM) flagship monthly journal. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise is the leading multidisciplinary original research journal for ACSM members. Each issue features original investigations, clinical studies and comprehensive reviews on current topics in sports medicine and exercise science.
Ronita Cromwell, Ph.D. is our Scientist of the Month for her and her team’s poster, “Long duration head-down tilt bed rest studies: safety considerations regarding vision health,” which was presented at the 2013 HRP Investigators Workshop at Moody Gardens in Galveston, Texas.
The Human Health and Performance in Space Portal is an informal collection of articles, sites and pages discussing the effects of space flight, travel and habitation on astronauts and other space flight participants.
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Project Scientist Dr. Lori Ploutz-Snyder, a three time Ohio University alumna and Honors Tutorial College graduate, develops strategies to mitigate the debilitating physiologic effects of long-term spaceflight. Her team’s work is of particular importance as NASA continues research on a three-year mission to Mars. Read more.
Welcome to the Division of Space Life Sciences (DSLS) at USRA Houston. As part of a non-profit entity, DSLS has the mission to support NASA and other Federal entities by conducting and managing research that addresses the risks to humans before, during, and after space exploration. DSLS provides high profile scientists, physicians, collaborators, and science managers to the NASA Space Life Sciences Directorate and the Human Research Program (HRP). Additionally, DSLS conducts and hosts major science meetings, seminars, and workshops. The full-time scientist team is made up of 32 scientists from many disciplines within life sciences. DSLS provides an excellent working environment for collegial intellectual exchange.
Dr. Neal R. Pellis, Director
The goal of the NASA space Radiation Program is to ensure that crews can safely live and work in the space radiation environment.
NASA uses the "Aquarius" undersea habitat as a research analog for space missions to develop concepts for long-term space habitation.
In late 2010, the Institute of Medicine released new evidence-based guidelines for recommended intake levels of vitamin D.
Space travel is inherently dangerous – it can entail all kinds of medical hazards.
Changes in sensorimotor function during spaceflight are most pronounced immediately following g-transitions.
The Exercise Physiology and Countermeasures Project and the Flight Analogs Project, both led by USRA scientists.
The risk of radiation carcinogenesis from manned spaceflight is high, particularly for epithelial cancers of the lung, breast, esophagus, stomach, colon, and bladder.