The researchers basically want to focus on the entire health of space travelers. One of the experiments of SpaceX’s CRS-17 Dragon is studying the Structure of Proximal and Distal Tubule Microphysiological System. In the current study, the researchers are trying to figure out the effect of microgravity and also other spaceflight factors on kidney health. The major factors including recycling, chemical exposure, altered diet, and water conservation have been found to hamper kidney’s health and functionality. Some of the kidney conditions such as osteoporosis, proteins in urine, and kidney stones are found to affect astronomers on a large scale when in space.
Now, the effect of microgravity on nephron, which is the basic unit of the kidney that has two tubule systems including the proximal and the distal tubules, is being specifically experimented. NASA wants to understand the genesis of dysfunction of the proximal and distal tubule. The longer stay in a microgravity environment is found to put the kidney health at more risk due to the claustrophobic environment and more exposure to chemicals, water conservations and recycling, as well as dietary changes. This will be the first time in history that the effect of microgravity on the proximal and distal tubules of the nephron’s mechanical function will be studied.
For the investigation, the proximal and distal tubules’ cultured in a microfluidic device was transported to the International Space Station. The researchers evaluated the kidney-specific functions when on the station. The hypothesis after the investigation put forward by the researchers is that the gravity and flow are needed for appropriate cellular polarization in the proximal and distal tubules and the microgravity changes the position and expression of the proteins that transfer fat-soluble vitamins, water, small proteins or peptides, electrolytes, and toxins or drugs. Also, the vitamin D bioactivation process is found suppressed in the proximal tubule when in microgravity as the cell polarity and vitamin D transport is lost. The prolonged exposure to microgravity increases damages caused by calcium oxalate and protein to the proximal and distal tubular.
The aim of the research is to provide NASA and other space organizations with long-term space travel’s effect on human health and how to maintain standard kidney health. The National Cancer Institute has started National Cancer Institute NeXT Space Crystallization Program 18 or PCG-18 is an experiment the SpaceX’s spacecraft Dragon plans to focus on so as to help find a new targeted therapy for aggressive cancer forms. The researchers are studying Taspase1 enzyme and its inhibitor to understand the effect of microgravity on its structures and its further benefit in new treatment.