September 16th, 2008
12:29 PM ET

Space medicine comes home

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/09/16/vert.sg.nasa.cnnjpg.jpg width=265 height=302]

Dr. Sanjay Gupta
CNN Chief Medical Correspondent

A few weeks ago, my producer Chris Gajilan and I got on the phone to talk about a series of stories we wanted to do on space medicine. I was really excited because since I was a kid, I have always been interested in space and had dreams one day of going there. Life, though, does sometimes take you in different directions, and I opted for the brain surgery job, instead of the rocket scientist…ba dum. I’ll be here all week…

Seriously, though, when I heard NASA scientists had come up with a model of weightlessness here on Earth, I jumped at the chance to investigate. It wasn’t exactly what I expected. In order to re-create the fluid shifts that are seen with prolonged space travel, scientists decided to put a group of patients at bed rest… for 3 months. Head down about 6 degrees, feet up, and absolutely no getting out of bed. As I learned, while extremely cumbersome, it is a pretty good model.

Over time, lots of things start to happen to your body, things that can be devastating. Turns out, as human beings, we like a little gravity. It keeps just enough pressure on our joints and bones to keep them strong. Without the usual gravitational force, our bones start to wither away. And, the calcium that starts seeping out of the bones finds its way into our bloodstream and can cause painful and sometimes dangerous kidney stones. Astronauts can develop advanced bone loss. As astronauts push farther into space on longer missions, the concern is that they will face debilitating osteoporosis so severe they can spontaneously break bones...


Filed under: Dr. Sanjay Gupta • Medical News
soundoff (2 Responses)
  1. Heather

    NASA always does the most amazing and interesting studies and experiments. Its good that they are looking into this. I bet someday either you or Miles will be up in space maybe together reporting from different points of view.

    September 16, 2008 at 2:02 pm |
  2. Cindy

    Great article! I always wondered what happened to the astronauts bodies when they stayed up in space for long amounts of time, like when they stay at the space station. It seems no gravity has a really bad effect on them. I hope that what ever they come up with will allow the astronauts to stay in space but remain healthy.


    September 16, 2008 at 12:48 pm |