News

    Salmonella Research in Space Yields Breakthroughs on Earth

    International Space Station (file photo)
    International Space Station (file photo)

    The International Space Station is not simply an outpost for astronauts.  It is a premiere science laboratory. Studies on the spacelab are helping scientists develop a potential vaccine for an illness that kills thousands of people annually.

    Salmonella is a potentially deadly food-borne bacterium that plagues millions of people each year, making them sick with fever, stomach cramps, vomiting and diarrhea.  But infection with salmonella does not just induce misery.  The World Health Organization says salmonellosis - and the dehydration that comes with it - leads to thousands of deaths annually, with the very young and elderly most at risk.   

    While rehydration and antibiotics can treat most cases of salmonella, scientists around the world have long sought a protective vaccine.  A NASA official recently told lawmakers in Washington that research in space has led to a potential breakthrough.

    Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA's associate administrator for human exploration and operations, said some of the work conducted on the International Space Station is making its way to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, or FDA.  

    "We've done research on salmonella and we've been able to develop essentially a strain of salmonella that's strong enough to cause the immune system to react but not strong enough to give you the disease, so that's essentially a vaccine.  That's about ready to go into FDA trial," Gerstenmaier said.

    Gerstenmaier explained that scientists have tested the potential vaccine on small organisms - namely worms in orbit - to get it through the first phases of the FDA process.  He said the potential vaccine could go into FDA trials soon.  

    Julie Robinson, the chief scientist for the International Space Station Program, told VOA that it is difficult to predict when human trials could begin.   

    "The challenge we always have with any kind of medical development like this is getting it, as scientists say, from 'bench to bedside,'" she said.

    She said scientists are preparing to apply to the FDA for Investigational New Drug certification, which is required before clinical testing on a small group of people.  Robinson said additional testing on the ground might first be necessary.

    Scientists began conducting this salmonella research on the space station in 2007.  Robinson says researchers are not certain of the reason, but salmonella behaves differently in microgravity.

    "One idea that is out there is that in your intestines, you have a lot of pockets and you have essentially what's called 'a low shear environment' where there's not a lot of fluid forces rubbing against the bacteria at that small scale.  So it may be that what they [salmonella bacteria] experience in spaceflight also triggers something that tells the organism 'oh, you're in a good place to start multiplying,'" Robinson said.  

    Robinson added that studies onboard the space station have also led to advances in battling pneumonia and deadly infections.   

    NASA astronaut Cady Coleman has worked on such science experiments aboard the orbiting outpost.  Coleman, who has degrees in chemistry, polymer science and engineering, explained the benefits of working in microgravity.   

    "Up in space, some of those viruses - that really important part - is so much more active and is so much easier to see that we can understand what is the active part of this virus," Coleman said.     

    And that makes it easier to figure out what might work in a treatment.  

    The U.S. space agency says more than 1,250 investigations involving researchers from more than 60 countries were performed during the first 28 space station missions.  

    NASA and its partners have agreed to fund the orbiting space lab until at least 2020.

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibiti
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 05, 2016 4:30 PM
    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video Former Drug CEO Martin Shkreli Angers US Lawmakers

    A former U.S. pharmaceutical business executive has angered lawmakers by refusing to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill by 5,000 percent. Martin Shkreli was removed from a congressional hearing on Thursday after citing his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Super Bowl TV Commercials are Super Business for Advertisers

    The Super Bowl, the championship clash between the two top teams in American Football, is the most-watched sporting event of the year, and advertisers are lining up and paying big bucks to get their commercials on the air. In fact, the TV commercials during the Super Bowl have become one of the most anticipated and popular features of the event. VOA's Brian Allen has a sneak peek of what you can expect to see when the big game goes to commercial break, and the real entertainment begins.
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Solar Innovation Provides Cheap, Clean Energy to Kenya Residents

    In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kangemi, customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Apprenticeships Put Americans on Path Back to Work

    Trying to get more people into the U.S. workforce, the Obama administration last year announced $175 million in grants towards apprenticeship programs. VOA White House correspondent Aru Pande went inside one training center outside of Washington that has gained national recognition for helping put people on the path to employment.
    Video

    Video New Material May Reduce Concussion Effects

    As the 2016 National Football League season reaches its summit at the Super Bowl this coming Sunday (2/7), scientists are trying to learn how to more effectively protect football players from dangerous and damaging concussions. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities say their origami-based material may solve the problem. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Saudi Arabian Women's Sports Chip Away at Stereotypes

    Saudi Arabian female athletes say that sports are on the front line of busting traditions that quash women’s voices, both locally and internationally. In their hometown of Jeddah, a group of basketball players say that by connecting sports to health issues, they are encouraging women and girls to get out of their homes and participate in public life. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
    Video

    Video A Year Later, Fortunes Mixed for Syrians Forging New Lives in Berlin

    In April of last year, VOA followed the progress of six young Syrian refugees -- four brothers and their two friends -- as they made their way from Libya to Italy by boat, and eventually to Germany. Reporter Henry Ridgwell caught up with the refugees again in Berlin, as they struggle to forge new lives amid the turmoil of Europe's refugee crisis.
    Video

    Video Zika Virus May be Hard to Stop

    With the Zika virus spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization Monday declared Zika a global health emergency. As Alberto Pimienta reports, for many governments and experts, the worst is yet to come.