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Space Health Institute launches the first commercial spaceflight medical research program

Press Release From: Translational Research Institute for Space Health
Posted: Tuesday, September 7, 2021

The Translational Research Institute for Space Health (TRISH) at Baylor College of Medicine announced today the first-of-its-kind research platform to study human health and performance in private spaceflight participants. Working with commercial spaceflight providers and their passengers, TRISH’s EXPAND (Enhancing eXploration Platforms and Analog Definition) Program will collect in-flight health data from multiple space flights and house it in a centralized research database.

As a partner to the NASA Human Research Program, the Institute helps solve health and performance challenges for human deep space exploration by finding and funding disruptive, breakthrough research and technologies. The goal is to reduce health risks for astronauts and uncover advances for terrestrial healthcare.

“The space environment causes rapid body changes. This can help us understand how we humans react to and overcome stress. Ensuring that space explorers remain healthy pushes us to invent new approaches for early detection and prevention of medical conditions,” explained TRISH Executive Director Dorit Donoviel, Ph.D. “Studying a broad range of people in space increases our knowledge of human biology. TRISH’s EXPAND program will leverage opportunities with commercial spaceflight providers and their willing crew to open up new research horizons.” 

EXPAND research addresses a wide range of challenges that humans face on long duration space missions: early detection and treatment of medical conditions, protection from radiation effects, mental health, team dynamics and more. TRISH pioneered a way to combine the studies of multiple researchers to streamline the process for spaceflight participants.

“This ground-breaking research model is only possible because everyone – scientists, commercial spaceflight companies, and passengers - recognizes the importance of space health research, and what we can learn by working together,” said Dr. Emmanuel Urquieta, TRISH’s Chief Medical Officer.

The first commercial spaceflight carrying EXPAND health research is the three-day long Inspiration4 mission, launching on September 15. The all-civilian Inspiration4 crew will perform a variety of TRISH-supported human health experiments during their time in orbit. The crew will also test novel, miniaturized medical capabilities that could one day make their way into terrestrial healthcare settings.

“Shorter commercial space flights like Inspiration4 have similarities to early NASA Artemis missions,” said Jimmy Wu, TRISH’s Senior Biomedical Engineer. “This allows TRISH an opportunity to test new health and performance technologies for future NASA astronauts.”

In addition to new experiments, TRISH’s goal is to provide a state-of-the-art integrated medical and environmental research knowledge bank as well as a repository for biological samples. EXPAND will capture research, medical data and biospecimens from all volunteering commercial spaceflight participants. TRISH selected TrialX to build the centralized database.

“The EXPAND database has the flexibility to seamlessly take in multiple types of data from different flight providers in order to create a repository that can integrate information,” explained James Hury, TRISH’s Deputy Director and Chief Innovation Officer. “A centralized, standardized research database and biobank will increase access to knowledge about human health for the global research community.”

TRISH is funded by NASA through a cooperative agreement with the NASA Human Research Program, and is a consortium led by Baylor College of Medicine and includes the California Institute of Technology and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Learn more about the Translational Research Institute for Space Health.


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