Space has proven to be key in keeping people healthy, driving modern medicine forward thanks to the research being done on ISS. And it's impressive what has come from the ISS over the years.
The newest research being done on the ISS is into crystal growth which could, in turn, speed up drug development. The research will examine why crystals grown in microgravity are of higher quality than Earth-grown ones, and which ones could benefit from growth in space.
It's still not clear why micro-gravity crystals are of high quality than Earth-grown crystals. There are two theories about why this could happen — the crystals grow at a slower rate due to microgravity causing slower movement in the proteins, or that a higher level of purification can be achieved in microgravity. The first half of experiments will work to see if either of these theories are correct or if it's another factor altogether.
The other half, as mentioned, will be seeing which crystals could benefit from being grown in microgravity. Experiments will see how the proteins in crystals react to the change in environment which, in turn, will help determine which can be used in drug and disease research.
More Benefits From NASA
This is just the tip of the spear when it comes to impact NASA and other space programs have had on health and medicine. Several technical breakthroughs for the medical field have come thanks to the mapping and robotics development for space travel and research. An excellent example is the Canadarm2, the robotic arm on the outside of the ISS, which cuts down the risk for astronauts who have to go on space walks. The tech used here led to the development of the neuroArm, a robotic arm used to perform high-risk surgeries, like removing brain tumors.
Aside from robotics, there have also been advances in maintaining physical health. A common issue that has been addressed thanks to the ISS is asthma. Nitric oxide is a common air pollutant in the ISS and on Earth that causes inflamed airways. In response, the European Space Agency developed a device that can measure nitric oxide exhaled to pick up any inflammation. This has since been translated to the general market to allow asthmatics to deal with inflammation before it gets too serious.
So when it comes to the next big medical advances, it may be worth looking more to the stars than the ground.