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.


Scientist of the Month



Ronita Cromwell, Ph.D.Our DSLS Scientist of the Month is Ronita Cromwell, Ph.D. for her poster “70 Days of 6 Degrees-head Down Tilt Bed Rest and its Impact on Ocular Parameters,” presented at the International Society for Gravitational Physiology Meeting in Waterloo, Canada, June 2014.


Ocular changes such as visual impairment and intracranial pressure (VIIP) have been observed in astronauts returning from long-duration spaceflight.  These changes may be attributed to the shift in body fluids due to microgravity, thus it remains to be determined whether 6° head-down bed rest is a good analog for VIIP.

Previously Featured Scientists of the Month




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.




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.


Human Health and Performance in Space


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.


Community Outreach Highlight


The Next Space Race - A DSLS Scientist’s Mission to Bring Exercise to Mars

Dr. Ploutz-Snyder

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.


NASA Space Radiation


Humans In Space Art Competition

Humans in Space Art

A Message from the Director

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

Research Projects


Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger

Video Highlights

HRP Spaceflight Analogs
Optic nerve compression


USRA Quarterly Display

Click here to view the presentation

Dr. Christian Otto

On August, 16, 2014, Dr. Christian Otto represented Team USA at the World Triathlon Championships in Zittau, Germany. In addition to numerous German participants, cross triathletes from the USA, Australia, Canada, Russia, New Zealand, South Africa, South America, Japan and most European countries traveled to Upper Lusatia (Oberlausitz) for the international cross country highlight event of the season.