Space and Health are synergetic areas, considerable research being conducted for a better understanding of human health in space, as well as using microgravity to better discover and formulate therapies on Earth. The Life Sciences and Healthcare track can involve activities tackling one or more of the below themes, or an alternative take on any proposed theme.

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Health issues associated with ageing and sedentary population

The focus of this theme is to address the health issues associated with an increasing proportion of elderly people in the population and obesity. By exploiting the effects of the space environment on human physiology as accelerated and reversible models of ageing and sedentary lifestyles, this research could converge towards the present and future analysis of the underlying process of health issues associated with ageing and inactivity, medical assistance, and mitigation methodologies.

3D cell, drug testing and novel drug discovery

Cell culture is the basis of many experiments in terrestrial based biology and biotechnology research. It is also heavily utilised by the pharmaceutical and healthcare industries. Cells cultured in a lab on Earth form a flat carpet on the bottom of the petri dish, unless a matrix or scaffolding is added to force the cells to form a 3D structure similar to those in the human body. When cells are cultured in microgravity, they form 3D structures like those in the human body and cell-cell communication resembles that in the human body, creating an environment excellent for testing drug efficacy and drug safety. 3D cell culturing finds space to be the possible optimal environment, allowing to identify and explore solutions with 3D bioprinting, with organoids – mini organs - and using them for cancer research and for drug testing or novel drug discovery.

Microgravity Crystal Growth

The process of crystal growth, known as crystallisation, benefits from microgravity due to the lack of sedimentation and convection which results in larger, nearly defect free crystals being grown on the ISS with associated unique characteristics and behaviours.

Remote and autonomous healthcare monitoring and intervention

The focus of this theme is to address the matter of practising and managing healthcare as well as facilitating its application by means of electronic processes and communication. It could, for example, encompass remote medical assistance and humanitarian crisis management, intervention, and training (e.g., telemedicine, tele-surgery, and tele-education).

Advanced Medical Diagnostics and Therapies, Imaging and Point-of-Care and eHealth technologies

The focus of this theme is to address new advanced tools for the analysis and protection of the individual’s health status, leveraging on the need for miniaturization and in-situ point-of-care required by human spaceflight. Using the health alterations observed in space as accelerated models of diseases, activities could include the research and development of new techniques and devices that can be tested and demonstrated in space for faster identification of specific biomarkers, symptoms, and countermeasures. The acquired knowledge and technology can then be transferred on Earth to improve the sustainability of a faster, more efficient and more cost-effective healthcare delivery.