Mission to create long-term space medicines

(ORDO NEWS) — Sleep problems, pain, congestion and allergies are all common complaints from those in space. In the period from 2002 to 2012, the use of drugs by American crews on the ISS was monitored.

According to the findings, astronauts used sleeping pills 10 times more often than people on Earth.

They also took ibuprofen for pain caused by spaceflight pressure changes, elevated carbon dioxide levels, and joint problems.

Unfortunately, the longer the space flight, the higher the likelihood of some kind of acute illness. On Earth, most drugs expire within a year.

In space, it could expire even sooner if not protected by the controlled conditions of the ISS.

To understand how to extend the life of drugs, Dr. Volker Hessel from the University of Adelaide decided to send them into space.

One of the goals was to find out how cosmic radiation might affect ibuprofen.

The ISS astronauts placed six pills in the MISSE container, which is located in a space not protected from radiation.

Walker says that after a year, only two of the six ibuprofen tablets retained their physical and chemical properties.

Ibuprofen tablets contain excipients that coat the active ingredient. Drug manufacturers add these chemicals to make the pills taste good or to make them more absorbable in the body.

In space, some of these substances have protected ibuprofen from decay.

Walker and his team coated their pills with iron oxide. Due to its high density, iron oxide can block gamma rays.

The team hoped that the coating would provide some protection. However, they didn’t expect some of the artificial flavors to help keep the ibuprofen safe.

Each of the test tablets contained the excipients 037 malt biscuits and 4-ethylphenol.

Walker says the chemical structure of these additives may explain why they help ibuprofen last longer in space.

Malt Biscuits 037 contains myrcene, which is a terpene, and 4-ethylphenol has a methylene group. Walker believes that the structures of these two groups make them scavengers of free radicals.

Free radical scavengers can slow down the processes that break down ibuprofen by stabilizing free radicals.

The free radical scavenging hypothesis may explain what happened, but Volcker’s team needs to do research to confirm it.

Long-term medicines are needed for space exploration. As NASA plans to send humans to Mars by 2040, astronauts will need medical supplies that can sustain the journey.

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