The VA’s sky-high re­search

Modern Healthcare - - Outliers -

Hold on to your Tang.

When the space shut­tle En­deavor launched its 25th and fi­nal mis­sion May 16, it was car­ry­ing some­thing un­usual within its cargo. Out­liers will give you a hint … it has some­thing to do with food poi­son­ing and a deadly bac­te­rial in­fec­tion. Stumped?

As part of an on­go­ing part­ner­ship with the U.S. Vet­er­ans Af­fairs De­part- ment, the shut­tle’s crew brought with them ma­te­ri­als they plan to use to con­duct ex­per­i­ments at the In­ter­na­tional Space Sta­tion. And those ex­per­i­ments may one day lead to vac­cines for sal­mo­nella and “golden staph,” an an­tibi­otic-re­sis­tant form of Sta­phy­lo­coc­cus au­reus.

Space is an ideal en­vi­ron­ment to con­duct vac­cine re­search be­cause con­di­tions there make bac­te­ria grow in size and vir­u­lence much more quickly than they would on Earth, the VA said in a news re­lease.

“By us­ing the unique en­vi­ron­ment of mi­cro­grav­ity to de­ter­mine the cel­lu­lar changes that de­ter­mine bac­te­rial vir­u­lence, es­pe­cially changes in gene func­tion­ing, sci­en­tists have sought to use these space flights to help speed vac­cine de­vel­op­ment,” the VA said. It’s not a first. In fact, vac­cine ex­per­i­ments have taken place on 10 pre­vi­ous shut­tle mis­sions, and the VA says it will fly an­other pay­load on the space shut­tle At­lantis’ fi­nal mis­sion in June.

“The NASA space pro­gram has been in­valu­able to ad­vanc­ing VA re­search,” says Dr. Joel Ku­per­smith, the VA’s chief re­search and de­vel­op­ment of­fi­cer. “The knowl­edge gained from this out­stand­ing col­lab­o­ra­tion has im­proved health­care for our nation’s vet­er­ans and has demon­strated the vi­tal role re­search part­ner­ships play in VA’s mis­sion to pro­vide vet­er­ans with the care and ben­e­fits they have earned.”


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