Space medicine in the United Kingdom
What has intensive care got to do with a mission to Mars? How can human space travel benefit hospital patients? What on earth is space medicine and why do we need it? Julie Sladden recently went along to the UK's first Space Medicine Day to find out
Let us start by clarifying definitions. The dictionary definition of space medicine is the medical science of the biological, physiological, and psychological effects of space flight upon humans--or, essentially, the effect of microgravity on the body.
Apparently weightlessness is not a benign state. It has a multisystem impact. We are talking bone demineralisation, muscle atrophy, impaired coordination and neurovestibular tracking skills, cardiovascular deconditioning and orthostatic intolerance, motion sickness, altered hormone concentrations, and, to top it off, hallucinations. As Kevin Fong, codirector of the Centre for Aviation, Space and Extreme Environment Medicine (CASE), puts it, “Space really screws you up.”
This begs the question--why go there? Well, by studying humans in microgravity we can learn how gravity affects us here on Earth. Alyson Calder, senior house officer in cardiology and Space Medicine Day organiser explains, “It provides a fresh way of looking at the human body. Many of the conditions experienced