Space Medicine and Orbital Twinning

TL;DR

  1. Space medicine and orbital twinning 
  2. The British Space Shuttle

Current events / Today I learned

I'm actually quite late on this current event!! On April 11, NASA released the final results of their pivotal twins study, probably the coolest space medicine experiment ever conducted. Back in 2015, astronaut Scott Kelly spent nearly a year on the ISS so that researchers could determine the effects of long-term weightlessness on the body. Meanwhile, his identical twin brother Mark (who's also a NASA astronaut, what a family!) remained on Earth as the perfect control specimen to compare against, since the two men have the exact same genome. So what'd NASA find out?


It's a known fact that zero-G is bad for the body - bones and muscles waste away without the need to resist gravity, and key organs like the heart and eyes swell and change shape. But most of these physiological changes are short-term; like previous astronauts who'd performed long spaceflights, Kelly's body mostly returned to normal within 6 months of returning to Earth. Instead, the more interesting and potentially long-term effects occurred at the genetic level



Our chromosomes have these protective caps on their ends called telomeres. Past medical research demonstrated that as we get older, these protective caps get shorter and shorter. In other words, telomere length is an approximate measure of wear-and-tear on the body due to aging. Logically, researchers predicted that due to the immense stress of spaceflight, Kelly's telomeres should shorten; instead, his telomeres surprisingly lengthened! But in case you think spaceflight is secretly the fountain of youth, you'll be disappointed - within two days of landing, Kelly's telomeres immediately contracted, baffling researchers. Combine this with the increased DNA damage from radiation and other unusual genetic expressions in Kelly's cells, and you'll appreciate why spaceflight is so dangerous!


If you're curious to learn more, check out this article here. I love space medicine because I come from a family of doctors - my dad, oldest sister, and brother-in-law are all physicians/surgeons. A few weeks back, my dad sent me an article from the New England Journal of Medicine that he was reading titled "Space Medicine in the Era of Civilian Spaceflight" talking about the near future where space tourism becomes more prevalent and doctors need to treat a growing patient population with exposure to spaceflight.

In the realm of investment banking, we analysts are assigned to cover different industry sectors, so true to form I cover the healthcare sector! If you're a pharmaceutical company in need of mergers & acquisitions, hit me up!

This week in space history

On May 7, 1992, Space Shuttle Endeavour launched on its maiden flight. Endeavour was constructed as replacement for Challenger, which was destroyed in the tragic Challenger disaster in 1986. It flew on 25 missions, including 12 dockings with the ISS and one with the Russian Mir station, before its retirement in 2011.

NASA Orbiter Tribute for Space Shuttle Endeavour

But why is our proud all-American spaceship spelled in British English (in American English, it should be spelled as Endeavor)? Because it's named after the famous HMS Endeavour, which in 1770 became the first ship to reach the Eastern coast of Australia under Captain James Cook. Apollo 15's Command Module was also named Endeavour after the HMS Endeavour. During its lifetime, Space Shuttle Endeavour carried a piece of the original wood from Cook's ship inside the cockpit.


5 comments

  1. Very cool! I don't really want to practice medicine in space haha - sounds like it would be so challenging, but I'm excited to see what others do

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    Replies
    1. There's a space medicine association - with all the radiation in space, they're going to need heme-onc specialists like you haha
      https://spacemedicineassociation.org/

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