Space travel can cause a lot of stress on the human body as the change in gravity, radiation and other factors creates a hostile environment. While much is known about how different parts of the body react in space, how lungs are affected by spaceflight has received little attention until now, say researchers at The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston and Houston Methodist Research Institute.
That will change, though, once their research project, which aims to grow lungs in space, reaches the International Space Station. UTMB and HMRI researchers say what they learn from the study could have real implications for astronauts, as well as those still on Earth, and could lead to future therapeutics.
“We know a lot about what happens in space to bones, muscle, the heart and the immune system, but nobody knows much about what happens to the lungs,” said Joan Nichols, a professor of Internal Medicine and Microbiology and Immunology, and associate director for research and operations for the Galveston National Laboratory at UTMB. “We know that there are some problems with lungs in space flight, but that hasn’t been closely looked into. We hope to find out how lung cells react to the change in gravity and the extreme space environment, and then that can help us protect astronauts in space, as well as the lungs of regular people here on Earth.”