Baylor Space Health Institute Grants Support Studies on Reducing Astronaut Metabolism for Long Duration Missions

HOUSTON (Baylor College of Medicine PR) — The Translational Research Institute for Space Health (TRISH) at Baylor College of Medicine granted nearly $4 million in awards to four outstanding researcher teams in response to its Biomedical Research Advances for Space Health (BRASH) 2101 solicitation. The space health institute sought creative never-before-tried ways to reduce potential damage to humans from the space environment through manipulation of metabolism and the normal state-of-being at the cellular or whole organism level.

As NASA’s Artemis missions return humans to the Moon, TRISH works toward countermeasures to address the human health and performance challenges that come with deep space exploration. Modifying the body’s metabolic and homeostatic processes could help reduce damage from space radiation or reduced gravity, while also minimizing food and medical supply needs for future long-duration crewed missions.

With TRISH funding, these researchers will immerse themselves in emerging scientific and biomedical advances, as well as disruptive technologies using space exploration as an analog for protecting human health here on Earth.

“These outstanding awardees brought cutting-edge proposals to the table. Each project provides a unique opportunity to advance human health research on the cutting edge of science fiction,” said Dr. Dorit Donoviel, TRISH executive director. “This creative research has the potential to protect all humans through advancing tissue transplantation or helping patients that have medical conditions such as heart or brain damage that could be aided by reducing cellular activity.”

NASA is leading the way in resource management, having to optimize the oxygen and food for its astronaut crews in a closed environment. Lessons learned from the space program informed disaster rescue crews working to save people trapped with limited resources, such as the 2010 Chilean mining accident involving 33 workers, and as recently as 2018 when 12 boys and their soccer coach were trapped in a cave in Thailand.

“There are situations when reducing the metabolism of people can save lives. The work that TRISH is funding has many applications beyond missions to the Moon and Mars,” Donoviel said.

The awardees will begin their TRISH-funded research in April 2022.

BRASH 2101 Awardees

Clifton Callaway, M.D., Ph.D., University of Pittsburgh
Cold-Sleep for Long Duration Spaceflight

Tammy Chang, M.D., Ph.D., University of California, San Francisco
The Effect of Isochoric Supercooling on Human Liver Metabolic Function

Allyson Hindle, Ph.D., University of Nevada, Las Vegas
Can Humans Hibernate at Warm Temperatures?

Christopher Porada, Ph.D., Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, N.C.
Using Human Organoids and Fossilized Remains from Extinct Hominins to Unlock the Secrets of Torpor/Hibernation

As a partner to the NASA Human Research Program, TRISH helps solve the health challenges to human deep space exploration. The Institute finds and funds disruptive, breakthrough research and technologies that can reduce risks to astronaut health and performance.

The Institute is funded through a cooperative agreement with NASA to Baylor College of Medicine and includes consortium partners the California Institute of Technology and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Learn more about the Translational Research Institute for Space Health and sign up for the Institute’s monthly newsletter.