Dr. Schmidt spoke at the Metabolomics Society International Congress in Dublin, Ireland in late June 2016. The talk was entitled “Personalized Medicine in Human Spaceflight: What Elite Athletes can Teach us about Molecular Deficits that Affect Astronaut Health & Performance.” An abstract of this talk is provided below:
“For some years, we have been developing personalized medicine methodologies for human missions to the Moon, Mars, and deep space, which are based on complex molecular profiling. Core tenets of this approach have been developed in parallel through our assessment and countermeasure efforts involving elite athletes, as well as in humans working and competing in extreme conditions.
We have conducted serum chemistry, genome, gut microbiome, and gut microbiome metabolome profiling of elite athletes derived from professional football, professional basketball, track & field, Olympics, high altitude mountaineering, professional motor sports (Le Mans), and military Special Forces. This work has revealed widespread molecular deficits that are highly individualized. Our findings recognize that elite athlete and astronaut cohorts share a general vulnerability, as they encounter their unique extreme conditions.
Where elite athletes and astronauts begin to differ, however, is in the manner by which the space flight environment rapidly accelerates changes in molecular events and accentuates the influence of molecular deficits. Notably, the convergence of microgravity, space radiation, prolonged isolation, fluid shifts, muscle atrophy, bone loss, and other conditions of space travel, substantially impact adaptive mechanisms. For instance, the primary reservoirs for magnesium are bone and muscle. However, space flight associated bone and muscle loss facilitates the loss of magnesium. This has a potentially significant effects on DNA repair, since many DNA repair enzymes are either directly magnesium dependent or require ATP (which is Mg dependent). Similarly, alterations in the genes, direct nutritional inputs, or dietary components that act as transcription factors, may significantly impact one carbon metabolism, which has its own wide-ranging effects on genome stability in the radiation environment of space.”