The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) has awarded $1.11 million in nine grants to university researchers for additional studies on astronaut health in space. The goal is twofold, to help astronauts in space and benefit humans on Earth.
The grants are part of a long-term plan by the agency to be a global leader in health in space.
The CSA awarded three grants to projects that “will use data mining to analyze previously collected data to gain new knowledge on health.”
The other six grants “will use research models, where scientists can test their ideas on model organisms exposed to the space environment, here on Earth.”
The grants went to the following researchers;
- Richard Hughson, Professor Emeritus and Researcher, University of Waterloo ($70,000) – The team will study how well blood vessels in the brain soften pulses from the heart. They will also test whether astronauts’ exercise routines protect their brains. A better understanding of the link between blood vessel health and thought processes in aging humans on Earth can help protect astronauts during future long-duration missions venturing farther into space.
- Steven Boyd, Professor, University of Calgary, Director, McCaig Institute for Bone and Joint Health ($70,000) – Using data gathered for Canadian ISS study TBone, the team will study bone loss in space and subsequent regaining of bone structures after astronauts return to Earth. Although some bone mass is recovered after returning to Earth, the bone structure may permanently change.
- Simon Duchesne, Full Professor, Faculty of Medicine Université Laval ($70,000) – Changes to sensation, movement, coordination, and reasoning during space missions can affect an astronaut’s performance. The team will analyze images of astronauts’ brains to track how brain health is affected by spaceflight, using methods similar to those used to track aging in terrestrial populations. Results of this study could aid patients affected by brain degeneration such as Alzheimer’s disease.
- Dr. David A. MacLean, Professor, NOSM University ($150,000) – The team will use a model that simulates spaceflight to understand the combined effects of radiation and microgravity on tissues like muscles, bones, eyes and the brain. They will also test whether dietary supplements can be used to counteract the effects of damage to healthy tissues.
- Rachel Holden, Nephrologist, Department of Medicine, Queen’s University ($149,975) – This team will investigate the role of dietary phosphate in bone loss in rodents and whether males and females are affected differently. This study could help shed light on optimizing astronauts’ diets and have implications for people on Earth at risk of bone loss.
- Dr. Bernard Jasmin, Dean and Professor, Faculty of Medicine, University of Ottawa ($150,000) – As muscles weaken, they get tired more quickly and are more fragile. The team will focus on understanding how muscles lose their size and strength in space, specifically looking at the role of protein Staufen1, and test therapeutic inventions that could be used to counteract muscle atrophy.
- Val Andrew Fajardo, Assistant Professor and Canada Research Chair (Tier 2), Tissue Plasticity and Remodelling, Department of Kinesiology, Brock University ($150,000) – The team will determine if inhibiting the activity of an enzyme (glycogen synthase kinase 3) will slow the decline of muscles, bone strength and cognitive awareness.
- Matthew D. Regan, Assistant Professor, Department of Biology, Université de Montréal ($149,040) – The team will examine whether resistance to muscle deterioration observed in hibernating mammals could inform how humans conserve and build muscle protein during spaceflight.
- Bettina M. Willie, Associate Professor, Department of Pediatric Surgery, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, McGill University ($150,000) – This team aims to use mouse models to understand the relationship between night-day cycles, muscle use and bone loss.