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    Human Health Benefits

    General Health/ Dietary Guidelines: Fish (intake) and Bone Loss

    Data from the International Space Station has documented a relationship between fish intake and bone loss in astronauts (that is, those that ate more fish lost less bone). Related findings have also been shown in two sets of ground-based space flight simulation studies evaluating the role of omega-3 fatty acids, the fatty acid found in fish. In a bed rest study, the rate of bone breakdown was related to omega-3 fatty acid intake (again, more omega 3, less bone breakdown). In a series of cell culture studies, cells that break down bone were less active when omega-3 fatty acids were added. While more detailed studies in flight are required, this has broad implications for all Americans, especially in light of osteoporosis and other bone diseases, which affect millions of people. This research was provided by Scott Smith.

    General Health/ Dietary Guidelines: Vitamin D Requirements: From the ISS to Antarctica to North America

    NASA Human Research Program has provided research to define vitamin D requirements for spaceflight contributed to the new dietary recommendations of vitamin D for North Americans. Because spacecraft shields astronauts from ultraviolet light, and the space food system is low in vitamin D, it has been determined crews need extra vitamin D to maintain health. To better understand the vitamin D requirement in this unique environment, NASA, in collaboration with the National Science Foundation, conducted two vitamin D supplementation studies in people wintering in Antarctica, when sunlight is limited for an average of six months. Published study results were featured in the 2011 re-evaluation of vitamin D requirements for North America by the Institute of Medicine. The Antarctic studies also characterized that body mass index can affect vitamin D status and response to vitamin D intake. Specifically, it was found that people with a higher body mass index require more vitamin D in order to achieve the same blood concentration of vitamin D as someone with a lower body mass index. These results have significant importance for the general population, where more than 1/3 of Americans are obese. This research was provided by Scott Smith.

    Water Purification: Filtering Apparatus and Method of Use (Patent #7935259)

    This water filtering innovation is used to eliminate contaminants from water supplies. Originally designed for purification of wastewater for reuse aboard the International Space Station (ISS), the technology can be used in numerous situations on Earth to obtain potable, medical-grade water from contaminated supplies. The unique aspect of the technology is its use of acoustics rather than pressure to drive water through the filtration system. The filter is made of small-diameter carbon nanotubes embedded within plastic or metallic assemblies. The small diameter of the nanotubes allows only water molecules to pass through, leaving behind any larger molecules and contaminants. The invention also may be used to remove water from chemical compounds, such as removing water from alcohols. The device requires less power than conventional filtration systems and is well-suited to a variety of water purification needs. The innovation is:
    • Effective: Produces clean water by eliminating contaminants
    • Efficient: Requires less power than conventional filtration systems, enabling remote operation and solar power options
    • Easy to clean: Features non-clogging technology
    • Flexible: Does not depend on gravity for water to flow through the system
    • Scalable: Allows for use of a single filter or a large bank of integrated filters, depending on filtration needs
    • Affordable: May be assembled using low-cost, non-degrading, easily obtained materials
    • Straightforward: Facilitates automated production of all filter components
    • Widely applicable: Suits applications for a variety of water processing needs, ranging from industrial to consumer applications
    Although the technology is currently under development, once fully developed it could enable recycling of water on the ISS and other spacecraft. On the ISS, alcohol and impurities in onboard water systems shorten the life of sorbent beds and negatively affect microscale machinery. Current methods of dealing with these contaminants are not completely efficient and result in equipment degradation and failure over time. For instance, the current method of dealing with alcohol in the water on the ISS is catalytic in nature and yields hazardous byproducts such as formaldehyde. The ISS regularly dumps unusable water, necessitating that tons of water be flown there every year to replenish the supply. A system that could separate alcohol from the water, making it suitable for reuse aboard the ISS, would save NASA millions of dollars. As NASA plans for human exploration of Mars, a host of technologies will be needed to protect travelers from the hazards of deep space. This innovation could offer significant benefits for water purification applications and contribute to NASA’s efforts to develop breakthrough technologies that enable deep space exploration. Non-Aerospace Commercialization Uses: The potential benefits of this technology are applicable for a raft of Earth-based water processing needs. End-users could include both industrial and municipal entities that plan to reuse recycled water, desalinate brackish or sea water, or treat surface or ground water for potable use. In addition, the technology could be incorporated into portable or handheld water filtration units, suitable for use in remote locations. This research is provided by Lillian Gavalas.

    Space Life Sciences - Exploring Space | Enhancing Life