It may not be too long before many everyday people are able to make their way to space. As commercial spaceflight grows within American soil with companies like SpaceX creating milestones for space exploration, Space City is playing a major role in health research to help future missions.
Baylor College of Medicine’s Translational Research Institute for Space Health (TRISH) at BCM’s Center for Space Medicine is rapidly developing science to help further space exploration capabilities through its unique health research.
The Translational Research Institute for Space Health (TRISH) is a virtual institute in partnership with and funded by the NASA Human Research Program with the goal to solve the challenges of human deep space exploration.
“We relentlessly seek and support high-impact science and technologies to enable every human to explore the Moon and Mars safely. We find and fund disruptive, breakthrough approaches that reduce risks to human health and performance. TRISH supports both high-risk early-stage research as well as pre-seed and seed-stage health technologies that can be modified for use by astronauts in deep space exploration. Led by Baylor College of Medicine’s Center for Space Medicine, our consortium leverages partnerships with Caltech and MIT,” according to the TRISH website.
Dr. Emmanuel Urquieta is Baylor College of Medicine’s TRISH Chief Medical Officer and is helping to lead the research needed to create a more robust data library and training for future astronauts whether from NASA or civilian astronauts.
“As we go to the moon and to Mars, that’s where we need to develop a lot of technology, especially to Mars. Mars is very, very challenging,” Urquieta said. “There are multiple things like the distance from Earth, the isolation and confinement, the behavioral aspects, the environmental issues and alternate gravity fields.”
Urquieta and the TRISH team are creating the protocol, questions and research objectives to create research and data collection to help understand how everyday people’s bodies are affected by gravity and those challenges of deep spaceflight.
“I think that’s what we need to increase the diversity pool of people in space,” Urquieta said.
The diversity in people going into space will help scientists collect more data on how many people are affected by spaceflight, allowing the teams to provide health recommendations to future astronauts. It is an ever-evolving field that is expanding as more people continue to travel to space.
“We look for the novel approaches with things that are high risk and high reward,” Urquieta said.
TRISH will also play a major role in health research on the first all-civilian orbital mission.
TRISH is working with SpaceX on its Inspiration4 mission. TRISH will work with the Inspiration4 astronauts to collect environmental and biomedical data and biological samples from Inspiration4′s four crew members before, during, and after this historic spaceflight.
“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,” Urquieta said.
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.
“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.” The all-civilian Inspiration4 crew will perform the simplified but research-significant experiments that the team has crafted. The crew will 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.”
TRISH aims 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, according to the TRISH website.
“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.