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Selected discoveries from human research in space that are relevant to human health on Earth.

  • Author(s): Shelhamer, Mark;
  • Bloomberg, Jacob;
  • LeBlanc, Adrian;
  • Prisk, G Kim;
  • Sibonga, Jean;
  • Smith, Scott M;
  • Zwart, Sara R;
  • Norsk, Peter
  • et al.

A substantial amount of life-sciences research has been performed in space since the beginning of human spaceflight. Investigations into bone loss, for example, are well known; other areas, such as neurovestibular function, were expected to be problematic even before humans ventured into space. Much of this research has been applied research, with a primary goal of maintaining the health and performance of astronauts in space, as opposed to research to obtain fundamental understanding or to translate to medical care on Earth. Some people-scientists and concerned citizens-have questioned the broader scientific value of this research, with the claim that the only reason to perform human research in space is to keep humans healthy in space. Here, we present examples that demonstrate that, although this research was focused on applied goals for spaceflight participants, the results of these studies are of fundamental scientific and biomedical importance. We will focus on results from bone physiology, cardiovascular and pulmonary systems, and neurovestibular studies. In these cases, findings from spaceflight research have provided a foundation for enhancing healthcare terrestrially and have increased our knowledge of basic physiological processes.

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