You are here

Exomedicine Institute

Printer-friendly version of this page

About the Exomedicine Institute

Exomedicine Institute is an independent, non-profit R&D enterprise whose mission is to acquire a better understanding of the influences of microgravity on the dynamics of living systems, and to rigorously apply these insights to the advancement of current medical solutions. Dr. Barker serves on the advisory board of the Exomedicine Institute. His interest in the mission of the Institute stems from his deep-rooted belief that the answers to the questions he asks in his research lie hidden within our organism and in the environment that surrounds us.   

Research in Space. (Source: http://www.nasa.gov/ [1,2], http://www.exomedicine.com [3])

The delicate equilibrium that the cells in our organism have achieved throughout evolution has been largely in response to changes in the environment. These changes, over millions of years of evolution caused single-cell organisms to evolve into a vast diversity of life forms that blanket our Earth’s surface today.  During all these years and throughout all the changes in- and outside our organism one of the few things that has remained constant is the Earth's gravity. If we subtract gravity every-day things that surround us can behave very differently. For example;

Flame w/ Gravity (on Earth) vs. Flame w/o gravity (in Space)
(Source: http://www.nasa.gov/ [2])

On Earth, flames have a teardrop shape caused by hot air rising in a gravitational field. Without gravity, however, flames break apart into little balls that float around. They burn using almost no fuel--something researchers would like to replicate in gas-saving auto engines. By measuring their properties in space scientists hope to learn how flames burn and what keeps them lit.

In our research we ask "why can some animals regrow their limbs and others can not?"  We also ask “what would happen to the cells that regrow limbs or finger tips if we subtract gravity?" Answering this questions might give us hints about why as we evolved into multi-cell organisms we lost the ability to regrow our limbs.

A Few Reasons to Explore Space

  1. “Asking if space exploration is worth the effort is like questioning the value of Columbus’s voyages to the New World in the late 1490s. The promise at the time was obvious to some, but not to others”. (James Van Allen, Space scientist)
  2. “Studying astronauts in the microgravity of space helps understand how gravity affects human development and health here on Earth.” (Joan Vernikos, Former director of NASA’s Life Sciences Division)
  3. “International space exploration offers a peaceful cooperative venue that is a valuable alternative to nation state hostilities. For example; The International Space Station where the former Soviet Union and the U.S. are now active partners.” (G. Scott Hubbard, Former director of NASA Ames Research Center)
  4. “Space exploration serves as a stimulus for children to enter the fields of science and engineering”. (G. Scott Hubbard, Former director of NASA Ames Research Center)
  5. “History tells us that great civilizations dare not abandon exploration”. (G. Scott Hubbard, Former director of NASA Ames Research Center)
  6. “Exploration is intrinsic to our nature. It is the contest between man and nature mixed with the primal desire to conquer. It fuels curiosity, inspiration and creativity”. (Joan Vernikos, Former director of NASA’s Life Sciences Division)
  7. “The human spirit seeks to discover the unknown, and in the process explore the physical and psychological potential of human endurance”. (Joan Vernikos, Former director of NASA’s Life Sciences Division)
  8. “We explore space and create important new technologies to advance our economy. For every dollar spent on the space program, the U.S. economy receives about $8 of economic benefit”. (G. Scott Hubbard, Former director of NASA Ames Research Center)
  9. "The International Space Station provides a unique environment where researchers can explore fundamental questions about human health issues, including how the body heals itself, fights infection, or develops diseases such as cancer or osteoporosis." (Dr. Elias Zerhouni, National Institutes of Health, Director)

Technologies That Came From Space Research

  • SATELLITE COMMUNICATIONS - Cell phones, G.P.S, Meteorological forecasts, predictions and management of hurricanes and other natural disasters, global monitoring of the environment, surveillance and intelligence, global banking, TV.
  • DIGITAL IMAGING BREAST BIOPSY SYSTEM - A non-surgical system developed with Space Telescope Technology that greatly reduces the time, cost, pain, and other effects associated with traditional surgical biopsies.
  • BREAST CANCER DETECTION - A solar cell sensor that determines exactly when x-ray film has been exposed to optimum density; it reduces exposure to radiation and doubles the number of patient exams per machine.
  • LASER ANGIOPLASTY - A "cool" type of laser, called an excimer laser, which offers precise non-surgical cleanings of clogged arteries and fewer complications than in balloon angioplasty.
  • ULTRASOUND SKIN DAMAGE ASESMENT - An advanced ultrasound instrument to immediately assess depth of damage, improving patient treatment and saving lives in serious burn cases.
  • HUMAN TISSUE STIMULATOR - A device employing NASA satellite technology that is implanted in the body to help control chronic pain and involuntary motion disorders through electrical stimulation of targeted nerve centers or particular areas of the brain.
  • COOL SUIT - Custom-made suit that circulates coolant to lower body temperature; it dramatically improves symptoms of multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, spina bifida, and other conditions.
  • PROGRAMMABLE PACEMAKER - An implant connected to a physician's computer and used to regulate heart rate, incorporating multiple NASA technologies.
  • OCULAR SCREENING - An image-processing technique developed by NASA and now used to detect eye problems in very young children.
  • VOICE-CONTROLLED WHEELCHAIR - Robotic wheelchair manipulator that responds to 35 one-word voice commands, helping patients to perform daily tasks like picking up packages, opening doors, and turning on appliances.
  • WATER PURIFICATION SYSTEM - A municipal water treatment system for developing nations that uses iodine instead of chlorine to kill harmful bacteria.