Organ Farms In Space

Space. The Final Frontier. Not a human friendly environment. Star Trek voyagers didn’t have to worry about injuries in space. They had a miraculous medical lab. We may not have that medical lab yet, but we’re getting there. The experiments may be small today, but someday we may have organ farms in space. Yes, we’ve learned a lot about humans living in space during the past fifty-nine years. Unfortunately, one thing we’ve learned is that space changes a person physiologically. Some of those changes are reversible. Some are not. But imagine if we could replace space-damaged organs. Organ farms in space may make human spaceflight a la Star Trek and Star Wars possible. But more than that, organs grown in space may help relieve multiple complications about organ transplants here on earth. The Downside to Organ Transplants Today, when a person needs a new kidney or liver or lung, they must get on a waiting list. The list of people needing organs (no matter which organ they need) is much longer than the list of donors. Years longer. But being on the list doesn’t mean you’ll get an organ. Organs must be a good match to the recipient’s blood type, height, […]

Hope of a Cure for Sickle Cell

In the midst of the pandemic and protests and political mayhem, the grim news can be overwhelming. But there’s wonderful news, too. Remember the gene-editing technique, CRISPR? A year after gene-editing, a woman with severe sickle cell disease feels great. This success signals hope of a cure for Sickle Cell disease. Sickle Cell Disease According to the Centers for Disease Control, Sickle Cell Disease (SCD) is a group of inherited red blood cell disorders. A healthy red blood cell is round. It travels through our blood vessels, even the tiny capillaries, and delivers oxygen to all parts of the body. When a person has SCD, their red blood cells become hard and sticky and shaped like a farm tool called the sickle. These abnormal cells get stuck in small blood vessels. This clogs blood flow. It can cause mild-to-severe pain and many serious problems like strokes. These cells also die early, causing anemia. There are three common types of Sickle Cell and three rare types. Some people carry the trait (they have half the genetic material that causes the disease). If two people with the trait have a child, they have a 50% chance of passing on the trait and […]

It’s Not Just the Oceans that Need a Cleanup

Garbage. It’s a familiar, man-made problem. On land and in the oceans. But it’s not just the land and the oceans that need a cleanup. Garbage is an orbital problem. A Growing Problem Accompanying the September 12, 2009 NASA Image of the Day (above) was a statement. “Approximately 19,000 manmade objects larger than 10 centimeters orbit the Earth.” By 2013 NASA reported more than 500,000 pieces of space junk were being tracked. According to National Geographic, as of January 2019, more than 128 million pieces of debris smaller than 1 cm (0.4 in or approximately the  diameter of AAA battery), about 900,000 pieces of debris 1–10 cm (up to the length of a regular crayon or the diameter of drink coaster) and around 34,000 of pieces larger than 10 cm were estimated to be in orbit around the Earth. This amounts to close to 6,000 tons of materials in low Earth orbit. It’s expensive to remove space debris from orbit. And there are no international space laws that require space agencies to clean up debris in LEO. So LEO is the world’s largest junk yard. Houston. We’ve got a space junk problem. Who Tracks Orbiting Garbage? In cooperation with NASA, the Space Surveillance Network a group […]