UGent engineer wins European Space Agency’s Young Researcher Award
A Ghent University engineer has won the ESA’s prestigious award for her work on the effects of space travel on the immune systems
Van Walleghem (pictured) presented her research at ESA headquarters in Toulouse, where she took part in a scientific symposium about long-term space travel. She presented her research into how space travel and long-term stays in space can influence an immune system that is not designed to function outside the Earth’s atmosphere.
According to the bio-engineer, who is finishing her PhD research at UGent, there are several stress factors in space, where there is no gravitational pull, atmospheric pressure or protection from radiation – which all pose problems for the functioning of the immune system.
“The mechanisms that govern our immune response to fight bacteria, viruses and fungi don’t function very well in free space,” says Van Walleghem. “The insights I will gather in my research can contribute to improving the health of future astronauts in the International Space Station or – why not? – during a journey to Mars.”
Photo courtesy Merel Van Walleghem/Facebook
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