With the last mission of the Space Shuttle Discovery in flight, I thought it would be nice to see how medical experiments are conducted in space. The above video gives an example how Astrogenetix, a company in Austin, has astronauts perform their experiments in low gravity conditions. As NBC's Austin, TX affiliate, KXAN, reports, "...the low gravity environment in orbit enables interactions between materials that would be more isolated from each other as gravity weighs them down on earth."
Of course conducting experiments on the space shuttle is very interesting, but where Astrogenetix really pushes the envelope in medical technology I believe, is how they perform the tests. As you can see in the video, the astronauts simply have to turn a crank to perform the experiment. What this relays to me, is Astrogenetix had to engineer that container to protect the astronauts from the bacterias that they were releasing in the tube, and create the mechanisms inside to operate in conjunction at the turn of the crank. By this one turn of a crank, Astrogentix was able to get results from low gravity conditions, that helped to find a possible vaccine for Salmonella.
In the video, it states that Astrogentix is currently working on a vaccine for MRSA, "a deadly disease that kills an estimated 19,000 people a year in the United States, alone." MRSA, is Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus infection and is mostly concocted in health care settings. (More information can be found at the Mayo Clinic website) With the Space Shuttle missions coming to an end, will possible medical breakthroughs, such as a vaccine for MRSA, that could have been harnessed in space, die along with Nasa's space shuttle program?
Discovery's last lift off:
Study Guide Questions:
1. What is the name of the company featured in the video/article and where is the company based?
2. For what disease did the company find a possible vaccine for?
3. For what deadly disease is the company currently working to find a vaccine for, and in what environment is it normally found?
Swift, Jim. "Company Works Medical Magic in Orbit." KXAN.com. 19 Nov. 2009. Web. 12 Mar. 2011. http://www.kxan.com/dpp/news/scitech/space/Company-works-medical-magic-in-orbit.