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President’s Perspective: NASA and Medicine

President’s Perspective: NASA and Medicine

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Last month, many of us watched history unfold as astronaut Scott Kelly landed safely on Earth after having spent nearly a year aboard the International Space Station. It was an exciting feat, not just for Commander Kelly and NASA, but for our country as well. Through his robust social media presence—from posting breathtaking photos of sunsets in space to the occasional selfie while cheering on the Texans or testing a new tech device—Commander Kelly reinvigorated our nation’s interest in space exploration and aeronautical science. Even more, the research being done on Kelly himself will provide invaluable insight into the ways in which space affects the human body. The results will no doubt propel us toward a future mission to Mars, but they could also translate into medical breakthroughs here on Earth.

In fact, NASA has a rich history of lending its discoveries to the advancement of society, especially in the field of medicine. Cochlear implants, cardiac pumps, advanced water filtration systems, enriched baby formula and less-invasive breast cancer screening tools were all adapted from technologies originally developed for the space program.

In this issue of Pulse, you’ll read about how Scott’s one-year mission will be NASA’s latest contribution to our field, and how some of the Texas Medical Center’s own institutions are contributing to this groundbreaking research. Information collected from the Twins Study, in which Scott’s unique biometric data will be compared to that of his twin brother, should provide insight into the effects of radiation exposure, bone and muscle loss, aging, cardiovascular function, personalized medicine approaches, and more.

The Texas Medical Center is proud to have a longstanding relationship with NASA and our neighbors at Johnson Space Center, and we value our ongoing partnership with Dr. Ellen Ochoa, the director of the Johnson Space Center, and her team there. Collectively, the city of Houston holds vast potential for our future, and I know we are all excited to see the results of these latest studies and how the road to Mars will help us improve our health as a society overall. Whether it’s through new therapeutics for heart disease, a more comprehensive understanding of certain cancers, or even improvements in agricultural engineering—together we’ll be making giant leaps for mankind.

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