Join Our TRISH-Funded Researchers!

X Class Solar Flare Sends ‘Shockwaves’ on The Sun
credit: NASA/SDO/AIAX Class Solar Flare Sends ‘Shockwaves’ on The Sun

The Translational Research Institute for Space Health (TRISH) has a single overarching mission: Lead a national effort in translating cutting-edge, emerging, terrestrial research into applied space flight human risk mitigation strategies for exploration missions. Simply put, we seek and fund emerging scientific and biomedical advances, radically disruptive technologies, and new engineering capabilities and facilities that bridge earth and space health. We have a robust portfolio of funding mechanisms.

Join our growing list of TRISH-funded researchers by learning more about funding opportunities by checking out our Programs page!

Focused Investigation Program (FIP) Awards

Bob Main, ABOM

Web Vision Centers Group, South Jordan, Utah

Development of a self-imaging, wide-angle, high-resolution retinal imaging system for human spaceflight applications

Eva Sevick-Muraca, Ph.D.

The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, Houston, Texas

Quantification of the lymphatic pump strength and assessment of CSF drainage into the lymphatics during HDT

2017 Translational Research Institute Research Topics Awards

Principal Investigator: Charles Chiu, M.D., Ph.D.

Research: In-flight metagenomic monitoring of infections and associated host responses in astronauts

Institution: University of California, San Francisco, CA
Start date: Oct. 1, 2017
End date: Sept. 30, 2022
Grant Mechanism: Program grant
Study type: Flight study

NASA Risk Addressed: Risk of Adverse Health Effects Due to Host-Microorganism Interactions

Problem Addressed: Astronauts will be susceptible to infections during long-duration spaceflight due to alterations in their immune systems as well as changes to the microbes in the space environment. This project builds a capability to track and identify the infectious agents in real time so that appropriate clinical treatments can be applied.

Major Aim of Project: To develop and implement routine onboard tools for monitoring astronaut health (infectious disease diagnosis by metagenomics and gene expression) and microbial tracking during spaceflight.

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Principal Investigator: Lawrence David, Ph.D.

Research: Personalizing prebiotic therapies for astronauts' gut microbiota

Institution: Duke University, NC
Start date: Oct. 1, 2017
End date: Sept. 30, 2019
Grant Mechanism: Single PI Grant
Study type: Ground study

NASA Risk Addressed: Risk of Performance Decrement and Crew Illness due to an Inadequate Food System

Problem Addressed: Deep space missions will not be able to carry large amounts of payload (including food). Dietary carbohydrates nourish human gut bacterial communities (microbiota) that resist pathogens, regulate gastrointestinal physiology, and train the immune system. This project enables the reduction of food mass and improves astronauts gut’s microbiota.

Major Aim of Project: To develop a platform for individualizing prebiotic treatments that could be used to enhance gut bacterial metabolism in astronauts. Customizing prebiotic treatments would also minimize the amount of unused dietary carbohydrates ingested by astronauts, reducing spaceflight payloads.

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Principal Investigator: Donald Fox, Ph.D.

Research: Mining biology's extremes for new space radiation resistance strategies

Institution: Duke University, NC
Start date: Oct. 1, 2017
End date: Sept. 30, 2020
Grant Mechanism: Single PI grant
Study type: Ground study

NASA Risk Addressed: Risk of Acute (In-flight) and Late Central Nervous System Effects from Radiation Exposure, Risk of Cardiovascular Disease and Other Degenerative Tissue Effects From Radiation Exposure and Secondary Spaceflight Stressors

Problem Addressed: Astronauts exposure to radiation during deep space missions is one of the main concerns. Different medical conditions derived from this exposure may arise. This project enables the identification of space radiation tolerant genes that could be used to enhance human safety during deep space exploration missions.

Major Aim of Project: This project aims to use powerful genetic screening in Drosophila (fruit flies) and follow-up work in mice, to identify unique genes and gene expression that enhance space radiation tolerance in vivo. These genes will be initially identified in Tardigrades (water bears).

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Principal Investigator: Dawn Kernagis, Ph.D.

Research: Cervical lymphatic function quantification and associated molecular changes in response to simulated microgravity

Institution: Institute for Human and Machine Cognition, Pensacola, FL
Start date: Oct. 1, 2017
End date: Sept. 30, 2019
Grant Mechanism: Single PI grants
Study type: Ground study

NASA Risk Addressed: Risk of Spaceflight Associated Neuro-ocular Syndrome (SANS)

Problem Addressed: Astronauts exposed to long-duration microgravity develop varying degrees of visual changes and signs of elevated intracranial pressure (ICP) although ICP measurements are normal. These visual changes are thought to potentially be associated with lymphatic flow alterations. This project will provide new information and tools to characterize the effect of microgravity on deep cervical lymphatic function and its relationship to SANS.

Major Aim of Project: To refine existing lymphatic imaging technology while addressing the hypothesis that simulated microgravity in humans impairs lymphatic transit speed in the head/neck lymphatics. Visual analysis and machine learning algorithms will be applied to develop a software program that automatically quantifies lymphatic function in conjunction with the measuring device.

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Principal Investigator: Robert Langer, Sc.D.

Research: Gastrointestinal devices for long-term in situ delivery of therapeutic microbes

Institution: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA
Start date: Nov. 1, 2017
End date: Oct. 31, 2019
Grant Mechanism: Single PI grant
Study type: Ground study

NASA Risk Addressed: Risk of Performance Decrement and Crew Illness due to an Inadequate Food System

Problem Addressed: Astronauts during spaceflight are generally not optimally nourished. Dietary intake tailored to the astronauts’ needs might be beneficial for their immune system function. This project builds upon previous findings from a Charles Stark Draper Prize recipient (Dr. Langer) that could be used to enhance immune and GI function.

Major Aim of Project: To develop a polymeric (plastic) device that is retained in the GI tract for an extended time interval (1+ years) to host, protect and administer genetically modified therapeutic microbes. It minimizes personnel, equipment and space requirements during spaceflight since it can be administered and quality checked during a pre-flight period.

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Principal Investigator: George Pantalos, Ph.D.

Research: Creating surgical capabilities for exploration space flight

Institution: University of Louisville, Louisville, KY
Start date: Oct. 1, 2017
End date: Sept. 30, 2019
Grant Mechanism: Single PI grant
Study type: Ground study

NASA Risk Addressed: Risk of Adverse Health Effects Due to Host-Microorganism Interactions

Problem Addressed: Due to the difficulty of resupply from Earth and the long communication delay during deep space missions, astronaut medical and surgical care will likely need to be autonomous. It is possible, that surgical procedures may be required to treat trauma or disease. This project enables the surgical capability to address such medical scenarios.

Major Aim of Project: To develop just-in-time surgical training, optimize the supply logistics of manifested versus 3D printed surgical instruments, and modify the NASA Robonaut 2 to add responsive movements for assistance during surgery. This project focuses on an example surgical procedure (appendicitis). Training material utilizing virtual or augmented reality will be developed and evaluated for effectiveness.

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Principal Investigator: Christopher Porada, Ph.D.

Research: Novel microfluidic biomarker detection platforms to monitor in vivo effects of solar particle events and galactic cosmic rays radiation, using mice with human hematopoietic systems

Institution: Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine, Winston-Salem, NC
Start date: Nov. 1, 2017
End date: Oct. 31, 2021
Grant Mechanism: Program grant
Study type: Ground study

NASA Risk Addressed: Risk of Acute (In-flight) and Late Central Nervous System Effects from Radiation Exposure, Risk of Cardiovascular Disease and Other Degenerative Tissue Effects From Radiation Exposure and Secondary Spaceflight Stressors

Problem Addressed: Space radiation is the number one challenge for deep space exploration – its unique composition generates deleterious effects mainly in the central nervous and cardiovascular systems. This project tries to develop countermeasures against these effects.

Major Aim of Project: To develop nanoparticles loaded with curcumin (an antioxidant) as effective countermeasures for space radiation. A mice model with “humanized” hematopoietic system and a “gut-on-a-chip” will be used to define changes in human and mouse radiation/stress blood biomarkers in response to mission-relevant doses of simulated space radiation.

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Principal Investigator: Susan Rosenberg, Ph.D.

Research: Discovery of human radiation-protection genes and pathways

Institution: Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX
Start date: Oct. 1, 2017
End date: Sept. 30, 2020
Grant Mechanism: Single PI grant
Study type: Ground study

NASA Risk Addressed: Risk of Acute (In-flight) and Late Central Nervous System Effects from Radiation Exposure, Risk of Cardiovascular Disease and Other Degenerative Tissue Effects From Radiation Exposure and Secondary Spaceflight Stressors

Problem Addressed: Astronauts during deep space missions will be exposed to radiation and their cells will suffer DNA damage, which increases their susceptibility to cancer among other diseases. This project determines human proteins and pathways of radiation resistance, which can be considered as potential targets for, or models for design of, drugs for protection from radiation.

Major Aim of Project: To explore 23 E. coli (bacteria) DNA “damage-down” DNA “damage-control” genes and their human homologs and analogs for their ability, when overexpressed, to protect cells from exogenously applied proton radiation-induced DNA damage.

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Principal Investigator: Kasthuri Venkateswaran, Ph.D.

Research: Omics in space: Technology development for omics instrumentations and biomolecule measurements

Institution: Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA
Start date: Oct. 1, 2017
End date: Sept. 30, 2022
Grant Mechanism: Single PI grant
Study type: Flight study

NASA Risk Addressed: Risk of Adverse Health Effects Due to Host-Microorganism Interactions, Risk of Adverse Health Event Due to Altered Immune Response

Problem Addressed: Processing of biological samples (e.g. saliva, blood, etc.) during spaceflight is time consuming. Additionally, microbial population dynamics can be altered when analyses are not carried out immediately. This project enables faster and real-time processing of these samples in order to identify potentially harmful microorganisms and other conditions.

Major Aim of Project: To develop an automated Sample Processing Instrumentation (SPI) for nucleic acid extraction (DNA, RNA, miRNA) that requires minimal crew time, reducing the amount of contamination between samples, and producing consistent results. This SPI will enable real-time screening and identification of microorganisms (e.g., dominating viral and microbial pathogens, as well as those that bear resistance traits relevant to antibiotics) during spaceflight.

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Principal Investigator: Lihong Wang, Ph.D.

Research: Label-free photoacoustic lymphatic flowgraphy in simulated microgravity

Institution: California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA
Start date: Oct. 1, 2017
End date: Sept. 30, 2019
Grant Mechanism: Single PI grant
Study type: Ground study

NASA Risk Addressed: Risk of Spaceflight Associated Neuro-ocular Syndrome (SANS)

Problem Addressed: Astronauts exposed to long-duration missions experience fluid shifting from the legs to the head due to microgravity. Some develop SANS which causes hyperopic refractive error shifts (farsightedness). This project investigates the contribution of microgravity-induced lymphatic flow alterations to SANS.

Major Aim of Project: To develop a spaceship compatible label-free PALF system to measure multiple key parameters of the lymphatic flows, including the lymphatic vessel diameter, flow direction, flow velocity, and volumetric flow rate.

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Postdoctoral Fellowships 2017 Awards

Heather Allaway, Ph.D.

Research: Will use of long-acting, reversible contraceptives mitigate bone loss in female rats during simulated exploration class missions?

Mentor: Susan Bloomfield, Ph.D.
Institution: Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas

Micaela Cunha, Ph.D.

Research: A mechanistic framework to assess the efficacy of aspirin and other radioprotectors to reduce carcinogenesis by space radiations.

Mentor: David Brenner, Ph.D.  
Institution: Columbia University, New York, N.Y.

Karina Marshall-Bowman, Ph.D.

Research: Assessment of artificial gravity as a countermeasure to cephalad fluid shifting

Mentor: Quan Zhang, Ph.D. 
Institution:
Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Maine

About: Awarded Forbes “30 Under 30 Science and Healthcare” list for 2017 in Europe.

Vivekanand Vimal, Ph.D.

Research: Predicting individual differences in learning to manually stabilize attitude in a space flight analog environment.

Mentor: Paul DiZio, Ph.D. 
Institution: Brandeis University, Waltham, Maine

Dr. Vimal discusses his research.