Broadcast 1258 (Special Edition)

The Space Foundation Conference

16 Nov 2009 Dr. Ted Bateman, Dr. Jeff Willey
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uests: Dr. Ted Bateman, Dr. Jeff Willey. Topics: Microgravity environment of space and bone loss in astronauts due to radiation. Our guests for today, Dr. Ted Bateman and Dr. Jeff Willey, both of Clemson University, are involved in bone loss studies at the radiation levels astronauts will probably encounter on long duration spaceflights, space settlement, and possibly even on a flight to Mars. Their research flows from a project funded by the National Space Biomedical Research Institute (NSBRI) in Houston. Visit www.nsbri.org for more information about this and other projects. In our first segment, our guests provided us with an introduction to bone loss from radiation as compared to bone loss from microgravity. We also discussed the different kinds of radiation and their relative biological effect on the body. Our guests connected this research to radiation bone loss as a result of receiving cancer radiation treatment and what this bone loss means to cancer radiation patients. We talked about hip and pelvic fractures and the problem of osteoporosis, especially for older people. Both our guests introduced us to radiation experiments using mice and the development of countermeasures to mitigate the radiation damage. You do not want to miss this first segment as not only is it fundamental to our entire discussion today, its key to understanding some crucial issues facing crews doing long duration spaceflight, a mission to Mars, or going beyond LEO. As we started the second segment, our guests talked about osteoporosis drugs that are available and the role they play in mitigating some of the problems. Specifically, we talked about bisphosphonates but also the potential role of anti-oxidants. They mentioned research that has showed early positive findings for one anti-oxidant in particular. Lifetime radiation doses were discussed as was possible radiation damage to the storage of vital chemicals and essentials in the bone, including magnesium. Several listeners inquired about going to space for a few hours on a suborbital flight if they already had osteoporosis, inquiring if that time in space would be a complicating factor. Probably not was the answer but listen to this full discussion. Radiation from solar flares was brought up as was the physical condition of the person in space. As you will hear, the more physically fit the person, the more likely the person will be going to space with greater bone mass which is preferable to lower bone mass. In the third and final segment, we talked about the sources of funding for this type of research and the interest in this research in other countries. Japan seemed to be most interested and involved given they use heavy ion carbon radiation therapy for cancer treatment. We then discussed pros and cons of carbon ion versus proton radiation cancer treatment and how this applies to space radiation. Also in this segment, our two guests stressed the seriousness of hip fractures for people beyond 50. Gene therapy came up in a question but our guests were not familiar with any gene therapy research for radiation bone loss. Toward the end of the program, we talked about the mice models and some specifics regarding animal research. Our guests told us how they got interested in this field of research which was mostly by accident. Listeners wanted to know if other animals were used or why mice. Cost was and is a big factor but as the research moves forward to include more blood vessel studies with radiation, larger animals such as rabbits will be used. Our guests described some of the animal research protocols that are followed and told us about the IACUC standards and regulations. The humans to Mars 2019 timeline was discussed and both guests said making that timeline would be at great risk to the astronauts. We also talked about the five year goal of their research so you want to hear what they had to say. For example, we learned that five years might be a bit optimistic in achieving their stated research goals. If you have questions or comments for either of our guests, please email them directly: Dr. Ted Bateman, bateman@clemson.edu. For Dr. Jeff Willey, jwilley@clemson.edu. Check out their website for further information at www.batemanlab.com.

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