UW Medicine scientists use outer space for research

SEATTLE, Wash. – On Thursday, June 3rd, a SpaceX Cargo will head to the International Space Station with a piece of UW Medicine research on it.

In efforts to learn more about the effects of space on the human body, researchers are sending up 24 samples of live kidney tissue from six different donors.

This is the second time scientists with UW Medicine have used outer space for such research. In 2019, they conducted a similar mission with kidney tissue samples.

“Micro-gravity represents a special environment where aging is accelerated. So we’re really modeling how the human body responds in microgravity, but with the idea of actually how that is applicable to terrestrial diseases,” Ed Kelly, with the UW School of Pharmacy said.

According to experts like Kelly, astronauts on long, space missions are more prone to kidney issues while living in such an environment. They’re hoping to learn how doctors could create treatments to prevent or treat kidney issues while in space.

When they receive the samples, experts on board will run a number of tests on the samples.

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The research could also mean innovations for people who live with kidney issues on Earth.

“So kidney stones are a very debilitating disease, and, really, we only have – the only effective treatments we have for those are pain relief and/or very harsh surgical interventions. What we’d like to be able to come up with is identifying early biomarkers to predict – before you actually have a kidney stone – to actually protect you and perhaps come with some therapeutic intervention to prevent that full-blown disease,” Kelly explained.

Kelly said the conditions in part of the I.S.S. will help speed up results, as opposed to the time it would take on Earth.

“We really can’t do this experiment in a standard lab. We really need the unique environment of the International Space Station and of microgravity,” he said.

The SpaceX Cargo CRS-22 launch will be in Cape Canaveral, Florida on June 3rd, 12:30 PM Eastern Standard Time.

You can watch the launch on NASA’s website.