Medicine and Astronauts: UniCamillus Seminar on Space Medicine

On Friday 24 November, UniCamillus hosted an important event in the “Horizons of Medicine” series entitled Medicine and Astronauts: Exploring Health in Space. The fascinating topic of space medicine was addressed, focusing on the effects of the space environment on the human body and the development of strategies in an effort to maintain the health and wellness of astronauts during space missions.

Astronauts in orbit experience microgravity, which can have significant long-term effects on the musculoskeletal, circulatory, and immune systems. They are also exposed to harmful cosmic radiation, not to mention the psychological challenges cosmonauts face due to isolation and the disruption of their daily routines.

After the institutional greetings by Gianni Profita, UniCamillus Rector, and Donatella Padua, delegate for the University’s Third Mission, Silvia Mari, a biomedical engineer from the Italian Space Agency, gave the opening speech. “Going to Mars is not a walk in the park”, said Mari. “Microgravity accelerates ageing and it is necessary to understand how to avoid these consequences on astronauts”.

The ageing Mari was talking about is the result of the overproduction of free radicals that occurs in the absence of gravity. This was the subject of the presentation by Gianni Ciofani, Senior Researcher at the Italian Institute of Technology (IIT). “Oxidative stress causes inflammation and tumours“, Ciofani explained. “We are studying nanotechnologies in order to combat it, both in space and on Earth”.

Maria Patrizia Orlando, a lecturer in Otorhinolaryngology at UniCamillus and an audiologist and researcher at CNR IMM ‒ ARTOV in Rome, also spoke about microgravity. She spoke about the A.U.D.I.O. PROJECT, a diagnostic experiment to analyse hearing functions in the absence of gravity. “We wanted to assess whether the hearing impairment reported by astronauts is related to an increase in intracranial pressure that occurs in space”.

Jeanette Maier, a lecturer in the Department of Biomedical and Clinical Sciences at the University of Milan, highlighted how space medicine is useful for terrestrial medicine. “Just think about gender medicine: the changes experienced by female astronauts in space are very different from those of their male colleagues”.

The conference was moderated by Francesco Prati, President of the UniCamillus MSc Medicine and Surgery Teaching Board and Director of the Cardiovascular Unit at the San Giovanni Addolorata Hospital in Rome.

Rector Profita was enthusiastic about the event: “I can only praise the experts and professionals present for their significant contribution in helping us understand how even space can inspire new perspectives in the field of health research“.