1
Introduction

The 1998 Committee on Space Biology and Medicine (CSBM) report A Strategy for Research in Space Biology and Medicine in the New Century (NRC, 1998) assessed the known and potential effects of spaceflight on biological systems in general and on human physiology, behavior, and performance in particular, and recommended directions for research sponsored by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) over the next decade. The present follow-up report reviews specifically the overall content of the biomedical research programs supported by NASA in order to assess the extent to which current programs are congruent with recommendations of the Strategy report for biomedical research activities.

NASA biomedical science includes the NASA Research Announcement (NRA) program of NASA headquarters’ Division of Life Sciences, the National Space Biomedical Research Institute (NSBRI), and the Ames Research Center (ARC) and Johnson Space Center (JSC). NRAs are made annually and include guidelines regarding priority areas of research for the upcoming year. The NRA program is open to all qualified investigators, who submit investigator-initiated proposals; funding is based on peer review and considerations of program relevance. NSBRI, a recently established consortium of university- and NASA center-based investigators, receives core support from NASA; participating investigators also compete for NASA funding through the NRA program, as well as for support from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and other extramural funding agencies. At present, NSBRI focuses on ground-based research, with an emphasis on basic and applied research relevant to the development of improved countermeasures. Biomedical research at ARC emphasizes neurovestibular studies and psychosocial issues. In addition, ARC houses unique centrifuge facilities for hypergravity studies in humans and animals. Biomedical activities at JSC are included in the Astronaut Office and Space Life Sciences Directorate, and ground-based testing of proposed countermeasures is the responsibility of this center. NASA also supports a number of focused research programs at universities, called NASA Specialized Centers of Research and Training (NSCORT). Currently one biomedical NSCORT, focused on radiation health research, is being funded.



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement



Below are the first 10 and last 10 pages of uncorrected machine-read text (when available) of this chapter, followed by the top 30 algorithmically extracted key phrases from the chapter as a whole.
Intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text on the opening pages of each chapter. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.

Do not use for reproduction, copying, pasting, or reading; exclusively for search engines.

OCR for page 7
Review of NASA’s Biomedical Research Program 1 Introduction The 1998 Committee on Space Biology and Medicine (CSBM) report A Strategy for Research in Space Biology and Medicine in the New Century (NRC, 1998) assessed the known and potential effects of spaceflight on biological systems in general and on human physiology, behavior, and performance in particular, and recommended directions for research sponsored by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) over the next decade. The present follow-up report reviews specifically the overall content of the biomedical research programs supported by NASA in order to assess the extent to which current programs are congruent with recommendations of the Strategy report for biomedical research activities. NASA biomedical science includes the NASA Research Announcement (NRA) program of NASA headquarters’ Division of Life Sciences, the National Space Biomedical Research Institute (NSBRI), and the Ames Research Center (ARC) and Johnson Space Center (JSC). NRAs are made annually and include guidelines regarding priority areas of research for the upcoming year. The NRA program is open to all qualified investigators, who submit investigator-initiated proposals; funding is based on peer review and considerations of program relevance. NSBRI, a recently established consortium of university- and NASA center-based investigators, receives core support from NASA; participating investigators also compete for NASA funding through the NRA program, as well as for support from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and other extramural funding agencies. At present, NSBRI focuses on ground-based research, with an emphasis on basic and applied research relevant to the development of improved countermeasures. Biomedical research at ARC emphasizes neurovestibular studies and psychosocial issues. In addition, ARC houses unique centrifuge facilities for hypergravity studies in humans and animals. Biomedical activities at JSC are included in the Astronaut Office and Space Life Sciences Directorate, and ground-based testing of proposed countermeasures is the responsibility of this center. NASA also supports a number of focused research programs at universities, called NASA Specialized Centers of Research and Training (NSCORT). Currently one biomedical NSCORT, focused on radiation health research, is being funded.

OCR for page 7
Review of NASA’s Biomedical Research Program The NRA program and NSBRI core funding provide the major sources of support for space biomedical research, although human studies are a significant component of the Space Life Sciences Directorate at JSC. The headquarters NRA program supports investigator-initiated ground-based and spaceflight research in all relevant disciplines through a universal peer review process to which NASA intramural scientists as well as extramural investigators can apply. Disciplinary research carried out at both Ames and JSC is funded by this program and is summarized in the relevant disciplinary chapters of this report. The primary mission of NSBRI-funded investigators is basic research aimed at the development of countermeasures, while countermeasure evaluation and testing are assigned to and supported by JSC. Program oversight is carried out by the headquarters Office of Life Sciences, although NSBRI operates with a high degree of autonomy. For the present report, the committee was charged to map the current NASA-supported biomedical research program to the recommendations of the Strategy report, not to evaluate in detail the quality of the research being conducted. Thus, this report presents findings and conclusions but makes few specific recommendations beyond those contained in the 1998 Strategy report. These findings and conclusions are highlighted in the body of this report. It should be emphasized that the Strategy report was released only in September 1998, and the “current” program, as detailed in 1998 and 1999 program documents, was therefore put in place prior to issuance of that report. The FY 2000 NRA and NSBRI research solicitations represent the first opportunities for NASA to respond to specific recommendations of the Strategy report, and the programmatic priorities indicated in these announcements are discussed in discipline-specific chapters of the present report. The 1998 Strategy report assessed research needs in the broad spectrum of disciplinary areas relevant to the health and performance of astronauts in space, ranging from cell and developmental biology, through the major physiological systems—bone and muscle, cardiopulmonary, endocrinology and nutrition, and immunology and microbiology—to radiation hazards and issues related to behavior and performance, and made specific disciplinary recommendations in each. In addition, the report considered overall biomedical research priorities and recommended that the highest priority for NASA-supported biomedical research be given to problems that may limit astronauts’ ability to survive and/or function in prolonged spaceflight. Six issues were identified: (a) loss of weight-bearing bone and muscle; (b) vestibular function, the vestibulo-ocular reflex and sensorimotor integration; (c) orthostatic intolerance upon return to Earth gravity; (d) radiation hazards; (e) physiological effects of stress; and (f) psychological and social issues. A wide range of approaches was recommended, aimed at understanding fundamental mechanisms of effects induced by spaceflight and the development of effective, mechanism-based countermeasures. In order to assess the extent to which the existing overall biomedical research program is aligned with the recommendations of the Strategy report, the committee considered the number of specific projects and the range of research activities that were ongoing within the disciplinary and subdisciplinary components of the NRA program and NSBRI for FY 1998 and FY 1999 funding years. In addition, the current total discipline and subdiscipline funding was estimated as a rough index of the priority given to the various research areas. Differences in grant accounting methods as well as overlaps in disciplinary research content among programs made it difficult in some cases for the committee to define precise budgetary figures. The total NASA funding in FY 1999 for the conduct of research in the Biomedical Research and Countermeasures (BR&C) program, which, in addition to biomedical NRA grants and core support for NSBRI, includes funds for the radiation NSCORT and biomedical support projects, was approximately $36 million. A pie chart summarizing NASA’s estimate of budget figures for disciplinary programs within BR&C in FY 1999 is presented in Figure 1.1. Total FY 1999 NSBRI research funding, most of which was provided by BR&C, was approximately $1 million each for the eight areas

OCR for page 7
Review of NASA’s Biomedical Research Program FIGURE 1.1 FY 1999 funding of NASA-supported programs in biomedical research and countermeasures. The total FY 1999 budget for biomedical research and countermeasures was approximately $36 million. It should be noted that the radiation biology sector includes major facility construction costs and directed spending not in-curred in other disciplines. The actual budget for peer-reviewed research in radiation health was roughly $4.6 million. Details of the radiation biology budget appear in Table 8.1. of research focus—bone, cardiovascular, human factors, immunology-microbiology-hematology, muscle, neurovestibular, radiation, and technology development. In certain areas of research, additional limited amounts of funding may be derived from sources not included here, such as NASA’s Fundamental Biology Program or joint projects with other agencies. Where information was available on these projects it is noted in the detailed discussions of individual disciplines in the chapters that follow. The Fundamental Biology Program1 per se lay outside the charge to the committee; however, projects relevant to biomedical science that are funded under this program are included in the review of the current biomedical research program overall. This report is organized similarly to the Strategy report. The body of this report addresses the major physiological systems, radiation effects, and biobehavioral aspects known or likely to be affected by spaceflight and describes the following elements for each: 1   Formerly known as the Gravitational Biology and Ecology program.

OCR for page 7
Review of NASA’s Biomedical Research Program NASA’s current research program and the extent of its congruence with recommendations of the Strategy report; Programmatic balance: The balance between subdiscipline areas emphasized in the current program, The balance between ground and flight investigations, and The emphasis given to fundamental mechanisms; Utilization and validation of animal models; Development and validation of countermeasures; Epidemiology and monitoring; and Support of advanced technologies. The report then describes the extent to which the current program addresses the recommendations of the Strategy report for the highest-priority research to address critical questions relating to the physiological and psychological effects of spaceflight. A final chapter discusses continuing programmatic and policy concerns relating to strategic planning, conduct of space-based biomedical research and utilization of the International Space Station, mechanisms for promoting integrated and interdisciplinary research, and the collection and utilization of human flight data for research purposes. In addition, the committee discusses issues having to do with countermeasure testing and validation and the role of the Space Life Sciences Directorate in human research that came to the committee’s attention during the course of the present study. REFERENCE National Research Council (NRC), Space Studies Board. 1998. A Strategy for Research in Space Biology and Medicine in the New Century. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.