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太空医学:关于人类健康的知识,微重力能告诉我们什么?

Medicine in Space: What Microgravity Can Tell Us about Human Health
太空医学:关于人类健康的知识,微重力能告诉我们什么?
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2019-08-19 09:57
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太空医学:关于人类健康的知识,微重力能告诉我们什么?

Microgravity, or very weak gravity, on the International Space Station (ISS) is what lets astronauts glide and somersault around effortlessly as they orbit Earth. It is also a useful environment for gaining insights into human health, both in terms of the impacts of long-duration spaceflight and new perspectives on diseases that afflict people on our planet.

在国际太空站(ISS)中,微重力(或弱重力)是宇航员在环绕地球轨道时可以毫不费力地滑行和翻跟头的原因。这对扩展人类健康观点也是一个有益的环境,无论是长期太空飞行时间对人体的影响还是关于星球人类的疾病的新观点。

Space-based biomedical research was one of the key topics discussed last week at the ISS R&D Conference in Atlanta. Researchers highlighted some of the current work on the Space Station, as well as further studies NASA and the ISS National Laboratory hope to do while seeking to commercialize low-Earth orbit. They also aim to use the ISS as a stepping-stone to landing back on the Moon and eventually Mars.

上周在亚特兰大举行的ISS R&D会议上,基于太空的生物学研究是讨论的重点之一。研究者指明了太空站目前的工作,以及NASA和ISS国际实验室的未来研究在研究将低地球轨道商业化的同时希望做的进一步研究。他们还打算利用国际空间站作为登陆月球的踏脚石,最终登陆火星。

As a physician certified in both internal and aerospace medicine, astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor has a keen interest in this work. She helped conduct several biomedical experiments as a flight engineer onboard the ISS for 197 days during Expeditions 56 and 57 in 2018, an experience she described to the audience at the conference. Scientific American sat down with Auñón-Chancellor to discuss the research she conducted and her own experiences with the impacts microgravity has on the human body.

作为一名内科和航空医学博士,宇航员Serena Auñón-Chancellor对这项工作有着浓厚的兴趣。她在2018年的56次和57次探险中担任飞行工程师,在国际空间站上协助进行了197天的生物医学实验,她在会议上向听众描述了这次经历。《科学美国人》与Auñón-Chancellor 进行了约谈,谈论了有关协助实验的内容和在微重力对她自身的影响。

[An edited transcript of the interview follows.]

摘录的采访记录如下

What effects of microgravity did you experience?

你觉得微重力对你有什么影响?

The experience is personal for everybody. This was my first flight. I’d learned for years about all the different things that happen to the body, but you don’t know, until you get up there, how you’re going to feel. So when I got up there—certainly, your stomach doesn’t feel great, the first few days. You just don’t feel like eating as much. You feel like everything’s floating inside. Turning your head quickly in one direction and then the other, there was a bit of a lag [for the brain to catch up]. But that diminishes so quickly that after about the first week, you start thinking, “Okay, I’m beginning to feel like I’m normal again.”

对于每个人影响都是不一样的。这是我第一次飞行。对于人体不同的变化我已经研究了很多年,你是不知道那是什么感觉的,直到你经历的那一刻。所以,当我到了那里——说实话,前几天我的胃不太舒服。你会感觉食欲不振,你会感觉所有东西都是在(胃)里面悬浮着。快速转头,会有点迟钝(要让大脑赶上)。但这很快就缓解了,大约一周后,你开始想,“好吧,我开始觉得我又恢复正常了。”

We all see changes in the immune system. We see what they call latent viral reactivation [when dormant viruses begin reproducing], and that’s measured in our saliva. We have almost everything sampled and tested up there, from feces to saliva to urine to blood. But it’s interesting how quickly things do revert almost back to normal once you get down to Earth.

我们都观察到了免疫系统的变化。我们看到他们所说的潜伏病毒的再激活(当休眠病毒开始繁殖时),这是在我们的唾液中测量的。我们几乎刺激分析了所有的样本,从粪便,唾液,尿液,血液。但有趣的是,一旦你回到地球的那一刻,机体便恢复正常了。

What are some of the key questions about how microgravity impacts human health?

微重力对于人类健康的关键问题是什么?

I think the biggest health challenges—certainly for exploration-class missions, longer and longer missions—number one is radiation. We’re pretty well protected on the ISS—the thick shielding of the vehicle, Earth’s magnetic field and the atmosphere all provide protection. Once you change that baseline standard—with a different vehicle, maybe thinner shielding, no atmosphere—your exposure is greater. And you’re at more risk for solar particle events on a long transit, let’s say to Mars.

我认为最大的健康挑战——当然是越来越长的探索类任务——第一是辐射。我们被 ISS保护的很好,厚厚车辆屏蔽,地球的磁场和大气层都提供了保护。一旦你改变了基线标准——用不同的交通工具,也许更薄的屏蔽、没有大气层——你的暴露程度就会更大。在漫长的穿越过程中,你会面临更多的太阳粒子事件的风险,比如说火星。

Continuing bone loss is also a concern. How do we mitigate that? The exercise devices we have on the station are big. We love them, but can we take something that large on the next vehicle? Probably not. So we’re looking at devices to use on the vehicles that are going to take us farther out.

持续性骨量减少也是一个问题。我们如何减轻这种影响?我们在空间站使用的健身器材都比较大。我们非常喜欢,但是我们能在下一辆车上买这么大的吗?可能不是。所以我们正在寻找的设备使用的车辆将带我们走得更远。

Then we have the effects on the eyes—the issues that we’ve seen with changes in the shape of the eyeball itself, swelling of the optic nerve, changes in vision. I did not experience any of those, but certainly, we’ve had other astronauts that have. So it’s something we’re tracking; we’re trying to figure out how to predict it and then how can we treat it if it does pop up.

此外,我们的眼睛也受到了影响——我们能看出眼球形状变化、视神经肿胀、视力改变。但是我没有那些变化,准确来说是一部分宇航员有此类症状。所以这正是我们要研究的,我们尝试弄明白怎么去预防和治疗它(眼部症状)。

Being a physician, it must have been interesting watching and comparing what happened to you versus your crewmates.

作为一名医生,你会觉得观察、比较发生在你和同伴身上的事情是有趣。

It’s kind of the old adage that until you walk in somebody’s shoes, you really have no idea. But then you realize, also, how different everybody’s bodies are. For example, it takes time to learn how to move gracefully in microgravity. I flew up there with Alex Gerst [of the European Space Agency], and this was his second long-duration flight. And when we first entered the ISS, I very clearly remember him saying, “Wow, my body remembers how to move up here.” His first flight was four years prior to that, but his brain had remembered. There was neural memory in there that said, “When you get up into microgravity, it’s a light touch here, a light foothold here. Just use your toe here to hold yourself down. Push off here, gently.” So he just remembered. To me, that tells you how remarkable the brain is at adapting to new environments.

这是一句古老的格言,除非你经历过,否则你无法感同身受的。但是你可以意识到每个人的身体构造都是不一样的。比如,我们要用很多时间来学习在微重力中移动,我跟Alex Gerst在(欧洲太空组织)漂浮,这也是他第二次长时间飞行。当他第一次加入ISS时,我印象非常清楚,他说“哇,我的身体在这里已经有了移动记忆。”即使他第一次飞行距现在有四年了,但是他的大脑依然有记忆。这是神经记忆,“当你处在微重力环境,要轻触、轻点。用你的脚趾来控制,并轻轻推开。"所以他一直记着。这告诉我大脑在适应新环境方面是多么出色。

What makes microgravity such a desirable place for conducting biological science?

是什么使微重力成为进行生物科学的理想场所?

Cell growth differs up in microgravity. Scientists are able to culture cells such as endothelial cells [which line the inside of blood and lymphatic vessels] for a little bit longer. They grow in a better, more three-dimensional fashion than growing them on a flat plate on Earth, which allows scientists to study different things.

在微重力环境中,细胞生长也是有差异的。科学家们能够将内皮细胞(血管和淋巴管内部的血管)等细胞培养更长的时间。它们以一种更好、更立体的方式生长,而不是在地球上的平板样生长,这使得科学家们可以研究不同的东西。

The other thing that changes is that it’s sort of like a rapid aging process that occurs in orbit. So we look at all the molecular markers and the way cells also change in orbit. And processes that take years on the ground, such as osteoporosis, happen much more quickly up there. So scientists see it as a test bed.

另一个变化是,在轨道上的快速老化过程。所以我们研究所有的分子标记和细胞在轨道上的变化。而在地面上需要数年时间的过程,如骨质疏松症,在那里发生的速度要快得多。所以科学家把它看作是一个试验台。

And finally, the third thing that I really enjoyed looking at was protein crystal experiments. Whether it was a protein involved in Parkinson’s disease or a drug that a pharmaceutical company was studying to improve, these protein crystals are structures that grow better [on the ISS]. They grow in a more 3-D, better-ordered structure in orbit, because they’re not limited to that flat 2-D plate. There’s a lack of convective currents in microgravity, which helps those crystals grow. It gives scientists better insight into the protein structure. So if they were able to look at a protein that causes Parkinson’s disease and have 30 percent more insight, or even 20 percent more, they’re able to look at it and say, “Huh, we see a new target for an inhibitor drug” or “We can tweak our drug a little bit and reduce that side effect, because now we’re better able to look at this protein.”

最后,我真正喜欢的第三件事是蛋白质晶体实验。无论是帕金森氏症中的蛋白质,还是制药公司正在研究改进的药物,这些蛋白质晶体都(在ISS)长势更好。它们在轨道上生长的更立体,结构更有序,因为它们不再受限于二维平面。微重力中缺乏有助于晶体生长的对流电流。这使科学家们对蛋白质结构有了更深入的了解。所以如果他们能够看到导致帕金森氏症的蛋白质,并且有30%的洞察力,甚至20%的洞察力,他们就能看到它,然后说,“哈,我们看到了抑制药物的新目标,或者说“我们可以稍微调整一下我们的药物,减少他副作用,因为现在我们能更好地观察到这种蛋白质。”

Which medical experiments do you think are the most exciting?

你认为哪些医学实验是最令人兴奋的?

Certainly, the Angiex chemotherapy study we did up there—I spent about six to eight weeks working on that. It was a good chunk of my time on the mission. The scientist was looking at: How did endothelial cells grow? And could we test chemotherapeutic agents on them? And what I want to know from the principle investigator is, “Did the ISS help you create a chemotherapy agent to target a tumor’s vascular supply?” Because that, to us, is important. Cancer is still, and has been for a long time, the emperor of all maladies. And so any small part that we can do to help in that fight, I’ll take it. Because a lot of my patients are dealing with cancer. Everybody’s dealt with cancer in some way, whether it’s a family member, a friend or themselves personally. This is something that everybody’s looking at and interested in solving. I’d love to see more studies like that.

当然,我们在那里做的血管化疗研究——我花了六到八个星期研究这个,用去了我任务中的一大部分时间。科学家正在研究:内皮细胞是如何生长的?我们能在他们身上测试化疗药物吗?而我想知道的是,“国际空间站是否帮助你创造了化疗药物,和目标肿瘤的血管供应?”因为这对我们来说很重要。癌症仍然存在,而且已经有很长一段时间,是所有疾病的皇帝。所以只要我们能在战斗中帮上一点忙,我就接受。因为我的很多病人都在治疗癌症。每个人都以某种方式处理癌症,不管是家庭成员,朋友还是他们自己。这是大家都在关注的问题,也是大家都想解决的问题。我很乐意看到更多这样的研究。

Does your work in space inform how you relate to your patients on Earth?

你在太空中的工作告诉你如何与地球上的病人相处吗?

I talk to my patients about the cancer research. I talk about Alzheimer’s disease a lot, because beta-amyloid protein is involved in many different disease processes. And I say, “Look, we’re getting better insight, through protein crystal growth, into beta-amyloid protein, which means that three to five years from now, we could potentially have better treatments out there.” And they love it hearing about it. They absolutely love it.

我会跟我的病人谈论癌症的研究。我经常谈起阿尔茨海默氏病,因为β淀粉样蛋白与许多不同的疾病过程有关。我说,“听着,通过蛋白质晶体的生长,我们对β-淀粉样蛋白有了更好的认识,这意味着从现在起的三五年内,我们可能会有更好的治疗方法。”他们很喜欢听你这么说。他们绝对喜欢它。

ABOUT THE AUTHOR(S)

关于作者

Andrea Thompson

Andrea Thompson

Andrea Thompson, an associate editor at Scientific American, covers sustainability.

Andrea Thompson是《科学美国人》的副编辑为您持续性报道。

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