Genomics and Space Medicine (Space Omics)

Image above: View of the Earth from the International Space Station. Image credit: NASA

The surge in commercial and civilian spaceflight enables for the first time, systematic, large-scale data collection to understand prospective effects of space travel on human health. The Genomics and Space Medicine project ( ‘Space Omics’) at the Baylor College of Medicine Human Genome Sequencing Center (BCM-HGSC) is designed to study pre- , in-, and post-flight biological specimens using an array of omics assays, including clinical Whole Genome Sequencing (WGS), research assays (RNA-Seq, microbiome, proteomics among others), and biobanking for future use to gain insights into the impact of space travel. These comparisons can also be valuable for advancing terrestrial health care under extreme environments.

This ‘Space Omics’ program is an integral component of the larger Enhancing eXploration Platforms and Analog Definition (EXPAND) program initiated through a partnership between the BCM Translational Research Institute for Space Health (TRISH) and the NASA Human Research Program. 'Space Omics' is aimed at collecting specimens from eight or more individuals per year as well as gender and age matched controls. Rigorous Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for specimen collection have been developed along with a LIMS-enabled biobank that tracks specimen details and storage information. Development of assay standards for pre- and post-flight travel are under way.

For the first time in the space human research program, participants will be analyzed for reportable genetic variants in 205 genes including the ACMG59 genes. Pathogenic and likely pathogenic variants of these 205 genes are consistent with genetic diagnoses of a monogenic disorder or carrier status of an autosomal recessive or X-linked condition. Additionally, this panel also reports two risk alleles in the LPA gene and a limited set of pharmacogenomic alleles (star alleles) in seven genes. A ‘Space Omics’ clinical-grade report will be returned to the participants unless the participants specifically opt-out of the data return.

The ‘Space Omics’ program has so far enrolled 11 participants (four participants each from Axiom-2 and Polaris Dawn missions) and three participants from the Axiom-3 mission. Samples including whole blood, saliva, stool, body swabs and urine from the Axiom-2 mission to the International Space Station (May 21-31, 2023) are complete and Omics assays are at different stages.

This project is supported by the Translational Research Institute for Space Health through NASA Cooperative Agreement NNX16AO69A.

Contact Harsha Doddapaneni or Aparna Krishnavajhala for further information.