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Biomedical researchers invited to design experiments for the International Space Station

The National Institutes of Health and the National Air and Space Administration are partnering to conduct biomedical experiments that astronauts could perform on the International Space Station. In a notice to scientists at universities, medical centers, and companies across the United States, the NIH announced its willingness to fund highly meritorious biomedical experiments that could utilize the unique environment in space and produce breakthroughs to improve human health on Earth.

The International Space Station provides a special microgravity and radiological environment that Earth-based laboratories cannot replicate. Congress, recognizing the immense promise the facility holds for American-led science and technology efforts, opened the U.S. portion of the International Space Station to other federal agencies and university and private sector researchers when it designated the U.S. resources as a National Laboratory in 2005.

The NIH solicitation is the next step in a new partnership to apply the National Laboratory to research that complements NASA's space exploration efforts. "As the primary federal agency for conducting and supporting medical research, the NIH looks forward to facilitating access to our nation's life sciences laboratory in space," said Stephen I. Katz, M.D., Ph.D., director of the NIH's National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, and NIH liaison to NASA.

Already, biomedical experiments conducted on the International Space Station have addressed how bone and muscle deteriorate, how humans fight infectious disease, and how cancers grow and spread. "The ISS is an extraordinarily capable laboratory in a unique environment that has not previously been available for widespread medical research. NASA strongly supports the NIH's leadership in this promising opportunity," said Mark Uhran, NASA's assistant associate administrator for the International Space Station.

The NIH-NASA program will encourage a new cadre of health researchers from a variety of disciplines to incorporate the space environment into their experiments, and will support them as they prepare their experiments for launch and analyze their data following a mission. "The diversity of NIH institutes and centers that agreed to participate in the initiative underscores the promise the International Space Station holds for human health," Katz continued. "We encourage all biomedical researchers in the United Statesparticularly those who are interested in molecular or cellular biology, biomaterials, or telemedicineto give serious thought to how International Space Station facilities might answer their most pressing questions about how to benefit life on Earth."

Former astronaut and Senator Harrison H. "Jack" Schmitt, who strongly supported the new partnership's development when he was chairman of the NASA Advisory Council, applauded the initiative: "The NIH and NASA have a long history of collaboration, and this announcement builds on that foundation to leverage the American public's investment in space-related health research and its implications for a much deeper understanding of human physiology."


Contact: Trish Reynolds
NIH/National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases

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