How Dallas Cancer Survivors Are Helping Astronauts

Researchers are studying the effects of pressure on vision.

Cool story over on KERA about UT Southwestern researchers, led by Dr. Benjamin Levine, taking Dallas cancer survivors up into the NASA plane that flies repeated parabolas high up in the atmosphere to simulate zero gravity. Why?

“One of the biggest medical problems in the last decade of manned space flight has been the understanding that astronauts on the International Space Station are losing their vision,” Levine explains. “And when they’ve come back down to Earth, it looks for all the world like the pressure inside the brain is too high.”

This hypothesis, that high pressure inside the brain is damaging the eyes, is what Levine was testing. Instead of sending people to the International Space Station, he’s using those fast swoops and dives of the plane as a chance to replicate the zero gravity experienced in space.

And there’s another big difference between these test subjects and the astronauts who have the vision problem.

These voyagers were all cancer survivors.

Why? Because these cancer survivors have ports in their brains – ports once used to deliver chemotherapy – that now make testing the pressure inside their heads easier.

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