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Will Someone Please Wake Up CASIS and the ISS National Lab Teams?

By Keith Cowing
April 30, 2012
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Scientists discover enzyme that could slow part of the aging process in astronauts — and the elderly, FASEB Journal
“New research published online in the FASEB Journal suggests that a specific enzyme, called 5-lipoxygenase, plays a key role in cell death induced by microgravity environments, and that inhibiting this enzyme will likely help prevent or lessen the severity of immune problems in astronauts caused by spaceflight. Additionally, since space conditions initiate health problems that mimic the aging process on Earth, this discovery may also lead to therapeutics that extend lives by bolstering the immune systems of the elderly.”
Keith’s note: When NASA flew John Glenn on his second space mission, much mention was made of the possible connections between aging on Earth and effects observed in astronauts and other organisms in space. Indeed, one of NASA’s biggest PR thrusts has always been the applicability of space-based research (especially biotech) upon life back on Earth. Well, here is one example. Interestingly, FASEB, which published this research, has a long history of often criticizing NASA’s human space life science program. So there must be something to this research, right?
You’d think that NASA, CASIS etc. would be playing up these results, right? No. Not at all. Just silence. You see, NASA no longer tracks this sort of news (but they used to). Nor do NASA and CASIS seem to have the collective or individual smarts to understand that the best way to garner support for future ISS research is to stay current with the benefits of past research – and tell everyone exactly what the benefits of that research is – as soon as that knowledge becomes available.
This is cluelessness in the extreme. Indeed, not making mention of this at and at CASIS borders on professional negligence.
Oh yes, full disclosure: 15 years ago (ouch!), I heaped my fair share of criticism on NASA for John Glenn’s flight (see below). While there is no obvious connection between these new research results and the experiments conducted on Glenn’s shuttle flight, it would seem that Sen. Glenn (apparently) still knew something that I did not …

12 December 1997: Looks like John Glenn will be flying on a Space Shuttle mission.
Editor’s comment: The White House is involved – and, from what we have learned, this is all but a done deal. More details to follow. Once this is announced, you can expect NASA to hurriedly come up with some spur of the moment, after the fact “experiments” to justify flying an elderly former astronaut in space. Glenn’s exposure to space flight was so brief and so long ago as to make a scientific basis for this flight utterly meaningless. This is about politics and public relations – not science. Anyone at NASA – or Senator Glenn’s office – who attempts to put a scientific spin on the reason for this space junket is being less than truthful with the public.
Since this is all about politics, we urge Senator Glenn to use the obvious media exposure that will result from his flight to call for a reversal of the punitive budget cuts being inflicted upon NASA by the Clinton Administration. THAT would have some clear value to the agency.
Otherwise NASA, if you really want to study the effects of space flight on senior citizens, keep flying Story Musgrave until he’s old enough.

NASA Watch founder, Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA, Away Teams, Journalist, Space & Astrobiology, Lapsed climber.