Wake Forest Baptist Researcher Awarded NASA Grant to Study Effects of Space Travel on Hip and Knee Joints
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – Sept.
8, 2014 – Jeffrey S. Willey, Ph.D., assistant professor of
radiation oncology at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, has been awarded a grant
by NASA’s Space Biology Program to study how space flight can cause
degeneration of skeletal joints and to test ways to prevent this damage.
grant was one of 26 awarded to researchers at 17 institutions in nine states. When fully implemented,
funding for the Wake Forest Baptist project and others will total approximately
goal of the Space Biology Program is to uncover basic knowledge that other NASA
scientists and engineers can use to solve problems relating to human
exploration of space or that could lead to new biological tools or applications
on Earth. Research
projects will be performed on the International Space Station.
project specifically will examine how near-weightlessness during long space missions
affects skeletal joints,” said Willey, who joined the Wake Forest Baptist
faculty in 2012.
the reduced gravity and increased exposure to radiation, such as that from
solar flares, during space flights can damage the hip and knee joints. That
damage could increase the risk of developing arthritis or bone fractures during
the flight or after returning to earth. However, the extent and exact cause of
damage to these joints hasn’t been studied and it isn’t known if the joint
tissues can recover.”
The Wake Forest Baptist study is designed to compare a group
of mice kept on earth under weightless conditions to a group that will be kept on
the International Space Station for 30 days. Damage to the hip and knee joint
structure will be assessed through imaging techniques, engineering devices that
measure tissue strength and identification of the molecules that cause the
team will also determine if treadmill running or climbing can reverse any of
the hip and knee joint damage caused by being in the weightless space
also hope to gain insights into how joint degradation develops in wheelchair-bound
spinal cord injury patients, and how it can be prevented,” Willey said.
Space Biology Program is managed by the Space Life and Physical Sciences
Division in NASA's Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate at the
agency's headquarters in Washington.9/8/2014http://www.wakehealth.edu/News-Releases/2014/Wake_Forest_Baptist_Researcher_Awarded_NASA_Grant__to_Study_Effects_of_Space_Travel_on_Hip_and_Knee_Joints.htm
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