The VA’s sky-high research
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.”