Off World Colonies Will Have Organ Labs (But No Organ Donors)

Posted by on Nov 13, 2009 in Blog, Health, Science, Video | 0 comments


(Image Courtesy of Gizmodo)

One of the beauties of living on planet Earth is that if you ever have an organ fail, you can easily sign up for a new one before the rest of your body expires (well, at least you can in China).

However if one lives upon say Mars, the dwarf world Ceres or the Galilean mega moons of Ganymede and Callisto, your options of finding a suitable match may be close to zero.

Instead of waiting for suitable donor organ from Earth, it may be more practical for off world settlers to grow their own instead.

(Gizmodo) Laboratory-grown organs and tissues are already benefiting patients today. For example, laboratory-grown bladders are being tested in children with spina bifida and adults with spinal cord injuries and will soon be tested in patients with bladder cancer. Tissue engineering technology has been used to repair narrowed urethras, the tube that empties urine from the body.

The Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine has already made great strides in producing functioning organs which will potentially benefit millions of individuals on Earth.

Led by Anthony Atala, this medical technology could have the potential of affecting millions of future settlers across our star system, enabling them to live with greater independence from our home world.

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Space Cancer Begone, Via Terrestrial Stroke Drug?

Posted by on Nov 13, 2009 in Blog, Health, Israel, Science | 1 comment


(Image Credit: Pat Kenny, via National Cancer Institute)

Despite the beauty and tranquility that comes with viewing the cosmos close up, the reality is space is a very dangerous place thanks to radiation.

Aside from the fact that it can turn your brain into mush, space radiation can also encourage cancer to form, leading to an early death for a future space settler.

Fortunately a drug designed to fight off strokes may also help space colonists defeat a future foe.

(Haaretz) Israeli scientists have identified a substance that can kill cancerous cells without harming healthy ones, paving the way for more effective cancer treatment. […]

The substance identified by the researchers, which delays cell proliferation in healthy and cancerous cells, is a component of a drug developed a decade ago to preserve nerve cells and prevent them from dying after a stroke.

But while the drug causes the rapid death of cancer cells, healthy cells activate a mechanism that overcomes the delay in proliferation within hours, and those cells continue to proliferate exactly like cells not exposed to the substance.

This is really good news, especially considering that there are very few radiation safe worlds within our star system.

If perfected, this drug (along with an anti-radiation drug) could enable humans to safely dwell upon Mars, Callisto and (with heavy shielding) Ganymede too.

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NASA To Irradiate Monkeys (What Will PETA Say?)

Posted by on Nov 5, 2009 in Blog, Health, NASA, Science | 0 comments


(Image Credit: Space Chimps)

If humanity is to ever conquer the final frontier, then we have to understand the effects of radiation beyond current assumptions.

Since human subjects are hard to find, it looks like NASA has chosen the next best thing–monkeys.

( If a manned mission to Mars ever takes place, the human pilots will be outside Earth’s protective magnetic field for several months, unprotected from solar radiation. Little research has been done on this sort of long-term exposure to low doses of radiation. […]

Eleanor Blakely, a biophysicist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, said: “Obviously, the closer we get to man, the better.”

The researchers are to pay particular attention to the effects on the monkeys’ central nervous systems and behaviour. The monkeys, previously trained to perform a variety of tasks, will be tested to see how the exposure affects their performance.

While PETA has yet to publicly show their displeasure regarding these tests (via their blog or on Facebook), these experiments are necessary in order to determine whether its safe to live off world (as there are not many radiation safe worlds within our star system).

NASA is already promising that the monkeys used in the experiment will have free health care for the rest of their lives, although the data from these tests should help determine how safe it is for humanity to travel to other worlds–along with all of their animal friends too.

(Update: Hat Tip Mars News)

Update (11/19): It looks like PETA has spoken. Oy!

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Lunar Dust Dilemma Solved (Via Space Umbrellas?)

Posted by on Apr 28, 2009 in Blog, Health, Moon, Science | 0 comments

Despite having the potential to feed our energy gluttonous world, lunar dust can be fetal to both humans and our robot friends, not to mention very electric (thanks in part to the solar wind).

While scientists have suggested melting down nearby Moon soil in order to counter the rough dust particles, it may be better to construct large space umbrellas thanks to new research regarding lunar dust.

(Moon Today) “Before you can manage the dust, you have to understand what makes it sticky,” says Brian O’Brien, the sole author of the paper. His analysis is the first to measure the strength of lunar dust’s adhesive forces, how they change during the lunar day — which lasts 710 hours — and differ on vertical and horizontal surfaces. O’Brien used data from the matchbox-sized Dust Detector Experiments deployed on the Moon’s surface in 1969 during the Apollo 11 and Apollo 12 missions. […]

O’Brien found that later, as the Sun rose and the angle of incidence of the Sun’s rays on the dusty vertical surface facing east decreased, the electrostatic forces on the vertical cell weakened. The tipping point was reached when the Sun was at an angle of about 45 degrees: then the pull of lunar gravity counteracted the adhesive forces and made the dust start falling off. All dust had fallen by lunar night.

“These are the first measurements of the collapse of the cohesive forces that make lunar dust so sticky” O’Brien says.

If the Sun is really influencing the stickiness of lunar dust, then the easiest way to combat it may be to erect an enormous space umbrella over the Lunar base.

While this may not give a future settlement an aesthetic look (which would not matter unless one was into the lunar hotel business), it could help reduce the amount of dust that makes it inside these future space habitats (a feature that may appeal to long term residents).

(Image Credit: Fashionably Geek)

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Did Somebody Say Anti-Germ Space Paint?

Posted by on Apr 27, 2009 in Blog, Health, Science, Technology | 0 comments

Aside from radiation, micro gravity and cabin fever, keeping a space ship clean can easily spell the difference between life and death.

Since micro gravity has a way of encouraging the growth of deadly organisms, future explorers will probably have to spend a lot of time keeping their “space trailer” squeaky clean–especially the walls.

While cleaning up the space ship may appeal to those in love with Mr. Clean, it may be better for space agencies to coat their space craft walls with anti-germ paint instead.

(Fox News) Scientists at the University of South Dakota have invented a new germ-killing molecule that can be added to commercial brands of paint to give the paint long-lasting antimicrobial properties.

The molecule includes a bleach-like substance called an N-halamine. N-halamines are already used widely, but the South Dakota researchers were able to develop a new type known as Cl-TMPM. […]

In tests, Staphylococcus aureus organisms were killed with 10 minutes of contact, and E coli organisms were killed with 5 minutes of contact. Paint treated with Cl-TMPM was even effective against the superbug MRSA and other drug-resistant bacteria.

Unfortunately the new paint is only effective against a small selection of organisms, although hopefully scientists will be able to expand it to a variety of organisms known to infest human habitats (whether on our homeworld, off world or even in space).

If perfected, this paint would not only save future explorers countless hours in “de-germing” their extra terrestrial habitats, but make living on another world a lot safer as well.

(Image Credit: eHow)

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3 House Plants You May See On Mars, Callisto And Saturn's Titan

Posted by on Feb 17, 2009 in Blog, Health, Plants And Animals, Science | 0 comments

Whether it takes a few decades or a few centuries, humans will probably populate the solar system along with a few animal friends such as dogs, pigs and ants.

While one may also expect bamboo to dominate much of the visible plant life (at least as far as off world forests go), we may find space colony offices filled with a few specific house plants.

(GreenSpaces Blog) We have tried and tested these plants for 15 years at Paharpur Business Centre and Software Technology Incubator Park (PBC™ – STIP) in New Delhi, India. It is a 20 year old, 50,000 ft2 building, with over 1,200 plants for 300 building occupants.

PBC™ – STIP is rated the healthiest building in Delhi by the Government of India.* Their study found that there is a 42% probability of increasing blood oxygen by 1% if one is inside the building for 10 hours. […]

We saved over 15% in energy costs as we did not have to inject 15-20 cfm of fresh air in to the building as suggested by ASHRAE – an industry standard.

Unless one is fortunate enough to live on the Moon, oxygen will be considered a precious commodity off world.

Despite their fancy names, these three plants may not only help keep air fresh and clean, but they could also help reduce the overall cost and energy needed to maintain a space colony (which is good news for space settlers heading for Mars, Callisto and Titan).

While this may mean that off world settlers will have to hire an extra gardener to ensure that these plants are growing up healthy and strong, future colonists may welcome the extra greenery (as it may help keep them from becoming too home sick).

(Hat Tip: LifeHacker)

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