So Isaac Newton once said, "No great discovery was ever made without a bold guess." So this is supposed to be true for all the great discoveries that mankind has ever made in history. Fire was one of our first technology that humans have ever made, and it seems a long time ago since that was discovered, but what have we done with it? In the ninth century, gunpowder was discovered, and that set the preface for this modern-day rocketry for our space rockets. 17th century, smallpox was eradicated, and this was the first time a disease has been eradicated by human intervention. 20th century: satellites, spacecraft, internet. That led to 1961, the first launch into space. In 1969, this allowed for a man on the Moon. In the 21st century, nanotech, biotech, which is amongst the first discovery in the first decade. We're now in the year 2019 and right now we're on the verge of allowing us to allow gene editing to allow our bodies to be enhanced, to eradicate diseases, and for the first time in human history, medical and space technology are converging together to allow us to make plans and to realize visions to allow us to go and colonize, explore other planets. So for all those people here tonight that knows me, you know my vision is unlimited, and for those who do not know me, please allow me to introduce myself. My name is Dr. Joshua Chou, and if you indulge me, I would like to show you how I plan to change the world. So good evening, everyone. Thank you all for coming today to my talk, on tonight, on "Curing Diseases in Space." I realize a couple nights ago that the title might, can be interpreted as curing diseases that are in space, so if you're here for that talk, it's probably not the right one. So I'm actually here talking about curing diseases on Earth through space. Now before we embark on this journey tonight into space, there's one word I want everyone to forget tonight, and that word is the word impossible. The world is round, that was thought to be impossible. We want to fly in the skies, impossible. We want to reach for the stars, impossible. How many times in human history have the impossible been shown to be possible? And that is one word that we try to forget, especially when we're doing research in places like Harvard. The impossible becomes the possible. Like many of you tonight, you're here coming to this lecture because you're curious about space, the curiosity about space, the wonders of space, the impact of space, and more importantly, the mysteries of space, and like you, I'm also a sci-fi person and I love space as well. So it all started with E.T. trying to phone home, and I was actually thinking the other night, it's actually really bad luck for E.T. To have landed during that time because if he landed now he wouldn't have a problem phoning home. He would just go up to anyone, grab a phone, and he'll be able to dial home. But what I'm trying to say is that sci-fi has always been embedded in our society, whether it be in culture or in films, and often times, a lot of things start with sci-fi, but then it soon after becomes reality. So, for example, "Armageddon", you're talking about, whoops, oh, wow. Sorry, I just got this new one so trying to use it. "Armageddon" talking about the impact of asteroids and we constantly hear news about asteroids that might be hitting Earth. Life in another planet, are we alone in the universe? These are real questions that we've always been wanting to answer. "The Martian," that has been held as one of the movie that most depict the realistic space exploration. It's so real, when I was in Boston, I had to argue with my Uber driver that it wasn't a documentary, it was just a movie. He actually thought it was a documentary, I was like, "No, bro, you have to look that up. "It's really not." But it was so real it felt like a documentary. And, of course, coming I think in the summer, "Ad Astra." Brad Pitt is in it and they have proclaimed that it is the most realistic depiction of space travel. So you can see that the fabric of space and the mysteries of space have always kept humanity really interested in it. Just last month, the front cover of "Time" magazine, "The Next Space Race." So we've already know about the first space race and that was going into space, going to the Moon. What is the next space race? The next space race is really about colonizing. Landing on the Moon, colonizing the Moon. Going to Mars, colonizing Mars, and beyond. You can also see that no longer space travel is limited to just countries like the United States or China, but we have started to see the privatization of space. So space exploration is just literally on the horizon. NASA and everyone else also have their own programs and programs to go to Mars. And how are we gonna build the science, the exploration, the technology to send people to Mars and live on Mars? So it actually all started with Isaac Newton coming up with the universal theory of gravity in the 1600s. Little did he know that 300 years later that there will be astronauts floating on the International Space Station. Just like me, when I first started studying, little did I know that here tonight I'll be talking to you all about surviving and curing diseases in space. So the first man in space was a Russian cosmonaut called Yuri, and since then, 560 people have gone into space, but what we don't realize is that these astronauts, or cosmonaut, or the space travelers, they've been carefully selected based on certain criterias, whether it be physical, mental, and so on. But that is no longer the case anymore. With the privatization of space, these criteria are no longer limited to certain space agency for each country, but rather up to individual medical officers. So one of the most famous picture that everyone relates to in space is the floating astronaut. Things float in space, and why is that? And that's due to a condition called microgravity. So these are either people or objects that appears to be weightless, and the effects of microgravity can be seen, an astronaut floating in space, and so we all see it in a lot of picture. So what is microgravity? So when we drop something here on Earth, it falls to the ground and that is due to the effects of gravity which is 1G. When an astronaut drops the same object in space, it is also falling, but it's just that because everything is falling, it seems like it's weightless, and we call that zero gravity or microgravity. So for those of you who plays a bit of game, you'll know that "Angry Birds," you know, you shoot the bird, "Angry Bird," when you shoot the bird, it's also due to the effects of gravity. So everything in our solar system, whether it be the planets, us on the planet, is all subjected to the laws of physics and gravity. So throughout human history, things have changed. The environment has changed, human evolution has happened, genetic knowledge has changed as well, but the one thing that has remained constant is gravity. That has not changed. The world around us has changed, physical, chemical properties have changed, but gravity has never changed, and that is a very powerful thing because it means that in our genetic code there is absolutely no memory of adaptation other to the gravity on Earth. So this is very interesting and it presents a lot of opportunities for scientists like myself to conduct research in biomedical research, commercialization, or even just fundamental science, and also for space exploration. So let's start with the beginning of the journey for astronauts. They go up in a spaceship. So this presents a lot of medical challenges in space flight. So if you see anyone sitting on the chair going up into space, they'll be subjected to different forces in XYZ direction. So whether it be a push sideway or up and down. So we live in three-dimensional world where there's X, Y, and Z, and these forces are present on the astronauts as they go up into space. Of course, the effects of gravity or microgravity is dependent on how long the astronauts are actually exposed to the microgravity environment. That simply implies how long they're actually in space for. So this year, these three astronauts are going up to the International Space Station, and Captain Hague, he made a very interesting statement: Getting there is only half the battle. We're just started to study those experiments here on the space station to see how microgravity changes the cell function. So he's acknowledging that we have the existing technology to get into space, but getting there is just half the battle. We actually have to survive it, and what he's saying is that they've only started to look at how microgravity affects cell function, and this is exactly what I'm doing in terms of my research, and also this reflects on our technology in the last decade in terms of space technology hasn't really matched our research in terms of how microgravity affects cell function. So what happens to the body when you're in space? So under microgravity condition. So in the short term, there are some short-term effects. Again, reinforcing that there are differences depending on the duration that you're exposed to microgravity, you have a lot of different medical challenges and effects as well. So whether it be hours, weeks, or months, they'll have detrimental effect on the body, but what you are see over here is that the effect is either radiation, yup, okay. It's either radiation or microgravity on the right hand side. So microgravity plays an important role in the human physiology when we're in space. What is very interesting is that it takes about 48 to 72 hours for the astronaut to start to feel the effects of microgravity on the human body. So we all know the one thing that we correlate astronaut and space exploration is bone, the loss of bone in space, and that is because bone is a very unique tissue and organ in your body that is responsive to mechanical loading, and what that means, for example, when we always tells our kid to go out, run around, and exercise, those are mechanical loading. When we're middle-aged men like myself, we're asked to do more weights. As we progress in life, we're asked to do a lot of sports, that's why we ask people to do sport, because of those mechanical loading help our body to build muscles, tissue, and maintain homeostasis. And in case any one is curious, this is a real life picture of me. I just cut of the head so that you can really see my body underneath here. So just to clarify that. So if that holds true, that your body responds to mechanical loading to sustain homeostasis, then the opposite must also be true. In the unloading environment where there is no more gravity, where there is no more force in your body, what happens to it? And that's where we start to see the loss of bone. So you can see that the percentage change in bone density per month during space flight is about one to 1-1/2%. You lose that much bone when you spend one month in space. So that is why astronauts can't stay in space for too long. Obviously there are certain areas in your skeletal system that are not that susceptible to the loss, but overall, and especially in the back, the hip, and the other areas, you lose a lot of these bones. So this actually causes a lot of problem because you can imagine even if we have the technology to say we can go to Mars tomorrow, what happens when we get there and we can't function, our body can't function to its full capacity. We're not able to colonize, we're not able to do work, and that causes a lot of problem. So that's why it's becoming very important to develop countermeasures to predict what type of side effects there is from long-duration space travel. So this is where my research comes in, in terms of the terrestrial musculoskeletal problems. So just like astronaut losing bone, it's also very similar to a problem here that's already prevalent on Earth and that's osteoporosis. So there are also other types of bone diseases like bone cancer, but, personally, my area of research is in osteoporosis. So to put things into context, I would like to show you how I've worked through my career to get to where I am today. So I started my bachelor's at UTS in 2001. As I mentioned before, the beginning of 21st century is almost all biotech or nanotech. So I was one of those people that did nanotech because that was hailed as the future. Then I followed through with a PhD in developing biomaterials for bone tissue regeneration. So what that meant was developing materials. When people break their bone, how can we put new materials in there to help improve the fracture time and healing time as well. Then I did my first post-doctoral fellowship at UTS. Then I went to Japan as a a JSPS Postdoctoral Fellow, in which I developed drug delivery system for bone tissue regeneration. So that's enhancing the biomaterials by adding different drugs into it to see if we can increase and speed up the regeneration process. Now at that point in time, I was not happy with it. There was only so much materials on planet Earth, and it's only so much we can do about it. It was not enough to cure osteoporosis, so I wanted more. So that's where I met my supervisor at Harvard and I decided go to Harvard, obviously, not I decided, people just don't decide to go to Harvard, but I decided to pursue in getting into Harvard, and that took a year or two before I actually got there to study bone cell signaling. Now what that means is we're studying at the cellular level how cells communicate with each other. It's no different than us humans talking to each other. If we can't understand how we talk, then there's no communication. So it's learning a different language but on the cellular level. So in 2017, I came back to Australia and went back to UTS. So I just have to show everyone what Harvard looks like. So that's me and my baby over that, over at the Harvard Medical School, and then I also was fortunate enough to be awarded the Dean's Scholar over at Harvard as well. So just a little insight into what is osteoporosis, like why is so important and why does this affect so many people? It's considered a silent disease because you don't really know you have it until you fall down and have a fracture, you go into the hospital, and the doctor tells you that you have osteoporosis. Or else, there's no other symptoms that shows on the outside, so a lot people don't know that they have it. So what is osteoporosis? So in a healthy person, your bone remodeling, which means the building of new bone and the destruction of old bones is in balance. When you have osteoporosis, obviously you have more breaking than building, so that tips the balance over to the other side and so you have more destruction of your bone. Similarly, the other can be hold true is that you can have more deposition than destruction. So you can see from the top right image, you can see the bone density of a normal, healthy bone, and also in the osteoporotic bone. I'm part of the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research, and they made a survey and found that more U.S. woman die each year from complicational hip fracture than from breast cancer. So you can see that bone problem, fracture, osteoporosis, this is actually quite a detrimental disease that hasn't gain as much attention as cancer. So back in 2001, a bunch of scientists found a very interesting person, this guy over here on the right. He has actually a lot, you can see that his cranium, his forehead, is actually very bulged out. He has really big jaws. I think he's also blind and deaf as well. This came from a mutation in one of the genes in the bone that's called osteocytes. So I'm not sure if this one, no, oh, here we go. Osteocytes, so there are three main bone cells in your body: the bone building one up here called osteoblast, the bone destroying osteoclast, and the manager cells called the osteocytes. So you can see that this man over here, poor man over here, he suffered from a condition that has overexpression of sclerostin. So sclerostin is a marker that is only produced by the osteocytes. So when they found that there was a mutation in the SOST gene, it means that he's suffering from a condition in which it keeps building bone, right? So that's why he's suffering from, his jaw's really elevated, his cranium's out everywhere. So that's what the condition where his body is constantly just making bone and that is not being replaced by the destruction of the old bone. So knowing that, this marker was able to continue to grow bone. What happened was the pharmaceutical company, Amgen, and together with NASA and Harvard, together they developed a sclerostin antibody. What this means was that it blocks the pathway of osteocytes creating this protein, and from there, they did this test in space. So we know astronauts loses bone, so they want to test it in space and see what happens to osteoporotic rats models that they took up to space for two weeks, and you can see, you can see, so this is the region of interest, so this is the part of the femur, the area that they're looking at. So this is the control group, this is the osteoporotic group, and then this is the osteoporotic with the drug being injected. You can see from the statistical analysis that the one with the drug, the bone density matches those of the control group down here on Earth, and similarly on the other side as well. So this was actually very important because for the first time in human history, we've actually used space to cure a disease that is prevalent on planet Earth. So as part of that, obviously they went through a lot of clinical trials to confirm those results. And as you can see, as of April 2019, which is only four months ago, this has been FDA approved for treatment of osteoporosis and postmenstrual menopausal woman with high-risk fracture. It was approved in Japan in February as well. It's been hailed as gonna be the gold standard for osteoporotic treatment in the coming years, and it does exactly what it was supposed to do. It blocks the sclerostin production in osteocytes and therefore increases bone formation and while decreasing bone resorption. So this is a very beautiful case study showing the potential of using the International Space Station to not only study diseases, but also study the human biology as well. So you can see that what they did was use the International Space Station to do this early target and screening, and also the pre-clinical studies, and then following on with the clinical studies back on Earth, which eventually lead to commercialization. So this shows that there is potential for using the unique environment of space to really study what's happening here on Earth. So I was very fortunate to be part of that project, I was very excited by it, and to be able to contribute to it, but then it left me with a lot of more questions. So how does the body, how does cells actually respond to microgravity? Are there certain mechanoreceptors that cells perceive these forces and so what are they? What is the normal threshold for gravity that cells can function or tissue can function properly? Why do gravity changes cell response, and, more important, how do they participate in the tissue growth, organ growth, and regeneration? These are very fundamental questions that we have yet to have any answers of, and these could be crucial and important if we want to do things like tissue regeneration, organ growth, and so forth. Before we get any deeper, I want to introduce to everyone the concept that your cells is more than just a cell. It is actually sensitive to the environment, just like you and me on the outside, but at a smaller scale. Just like us, we love to go to the beach and do yoga, have a lot of space, and stretch out ourselves. I was one of the fortunate people to experience the peak-hour traffic of Tokyo train lines where I have to be stuck in one of those trains, and I'm a pretty big guy compared to Japanese standard, and I feel like I'm almost gonna die in there, and you can imagine they have to do that every day. Similarly, cells feel the same. If they have space to spread out, they're happy, but if they're crunched up together, they also want to die, and that means if that is true, then that also means that they can sense their surroundings. But how do they do that? So as part of my research, I look, I study a signaling pathway called a YAP and TAZ pathway, and it probably won't mean anything to you, but it's a very important pathway because every single tissue, and organ, and cells in your body is governed by this pathway. Just think of it as a center for transducing or translating those mechanical signals that happens to your body. So organ growth, when you're a baby inside the mother's womb, how fast it grows, how much it grows, have you ever wonder how does your body and cell tell when to stop or when to grow? These are all governed through this pathway. So that's why this pathway is very important. Now I look at it from a perspective of bone, tissues, because that's my interest and that's my area of study. So a lot of people ask me, "How did it all start? "How did you get from bone into this whole space thing?" Well, it wasn't one moment in my life, but rather it started with my lunchbox at Harvard. So even when you're at Harvard, even lunchboxes aren't safe. We started talking, we started to write down ideas, on just brainstorming how we can measure these mechanical signals in the cells. Then when I came back to Australia, one day while I was picking up a delivery from the delivery store, the delivery guy for some reason drew a spaceship going to another planet. I was like, "Oh, that's interesting. "How does he know I have this interest?" And finally, my research partner, Dr. Peter Bevry who's sitting back there tonight, was also an inspiration for me, and we've talked a lot, and we're just two crazy people coming up with idea. And so put it all together, we decided to follow this dream on seeing, understanding how cells perceive of the environment. So the ultimate question came down to how do we create microgravity here on Earth that cells can actually perceive and we can do experiments on it? So there are a number of strategy and one is a neutral buoyancy. That's not really feasible. Magnetic levitation using super-conducting superconductors. That one creates the microgravity. It's not feasible to put cells in there for a long time. And then the most popular, your parabolic flights or drop towers. So you have those comet vomits, also drop towers, because the microgravity that it can induce is only about three to 10 seconds. So for cell study, they don't respond that fast, so it does not fit what we want to do. So the only thing left is the random position machine, or the RPM. The RPM is not a new concept. It's not a new technology as well. See, other people have attempted at building these type of devices, but you can see that they're very bulky. They rotated the whole incubator. This one is just really gigantic, I don't know why. The closest one we could find was the Airbus one, and this has been built for the last, at least a decade, but no one has been able to use it because back then no one understand the concept of this, how cells perceive the environment, so it's kind of been lying there, kind of dormant, without people really using it while applying it to its full potential. For those people that are old enough, like me, who've seen the movie "Contact," that machine that they built, it also looks like an RPM, so I thought it was pretty cool. So I talked with one of my student who graduated. He knows he's a brilliant engineer. I'm a cell biologist, I'm not an engineer, so I can't make these things. So I talked to my student, "How can we actually build one of these "that fits the profile of what I need to do "in the laboratory to study cells?" So my student, Anthony, he went away for a few weeks and then after a while he came back and he made me one of these microgravity devices. So this is what it actually does. So you see that flask? That little flask with the blue lid? Inside there there are cells, and you can see that it's rotating on three different axes. And also here, down here, you can see that there's a graph. It accelerates at a certain rate and a certain angle that creates the microgravity that we wanted. What was really cool about what Anthony did was that he developed the algorithm so that we can actually produce the gravity from different planets. So that means we can actually mimic the conditions of gravitation pull from different planets and therefore study, and get a glimpse and an idea of how cells or tissues will respond under those type of condition. So last week me and Anthony were actually interviewed by ABC's "7.30" report. I think that's gonna be air either this week or next week, and he's also sitting there as well, so you guys can go take a selfie with him later. And so it was great. So we have this great device that can mimic microgravity. It's all good. Now I want to use it for my bone research, and that's great, but there was another question. So this was a point in time in my life where people around me started to also develop cancer. When I was a kid, knowing someone to have cancer was really, really, really rare, like you probably have to go to another city to even find anyone that might have it, but now fast forward 30-something years later, it's becoming widely accepted in our society to get different variations of cancer. So at my age, people around me, people I care, I love, start to either develop them or have the onsets of cancer, and that was, for me, that was not something I can live with. I'm a person of action and there was, but also I was very conflicted because I cannot restart a career looking into cancer research, and there are a lot of other brilliant people out there that do cancer research, so what can I do to help or contribute? So I thought about cancer. So we all know cancer starts of really small, like over here. So it starts out really small, and then it multiplies, and it gets bigger and bigger, and then it becomes so big, eventually it invades other surrounding tissue. That's a very basic model how cancer work. You also have to appreciate how well cancer can conduct modern warfare. It's no different than any types of warfare in history. You start of really small, you build a small base, you get more troops in there until you're so confident that your base is well-fortified that you send troops out to invade the rest of the country, and that is how cancer operates. So as I mentioned before, I study the YAP and TAZ pathway, and like I said before, it's preserved in all the organs in the human body. When I was at Harvard, even though I was working on the bone stuff, every single cancer-related research group there was studying how YAP and TAZ affect cancer biology. And then in recent publication, they've actually said that YAP and TAZ is the origin of all human cancer. So what that means is the ability for cancer to migrate in your body, that is also governed by YAP and TAZ. How it adapts to the environment once it gets there, that's through the YAP and TAZ pathway. How it multiplies and sense its surrounding, that is also through the YAP and TAZ pathway. So you can see that the cancer cell is one that is highly sensitive to its surrounding. So last week I had to actually go to my child's child care center to present what I'm presenting to you tonight, as I thought the best way to describe this was through Avengers. Thanos being the bad guy, the cancer, bad guy, and the superheroes are attacking him. We have in human history spent trillion of dollars in those years developing superhero drugs to combat cancer. And don't get me wrong, we've made a lot of progress, and they're very effective drugs, and they work to a certain extent, but, nevertheless, cancer still stands. We have yet to find any cure. We've done quite well, but we haven't got there yet. So the biggest thing in cancer therapy right now is personalized cancer therapy. So what that means is that we finally accepted that cancer are all different, each person's cancer is different, each individual is different, and therefore we cannot possibly make a drug to target different people with different types of cancer. It's just not possible. So now the big thing is about personalizing the therapy for a specific patient to a specific cancer. So if I say in this room everyone is different, right? You're all from different races, different age group, different sizes, and so on and so forth. There's no possible way I could develop a drug that can target every single one of you 'cause everyone's different, but I thought about it. Even though the individuals are different, the cancers are different, there's something that they all share in common and we all share in common. We all need to breathe, we all need to eat, we all need to sleep, and we all sense as well. So what if cancer also have these similar traits that they share amongst themself as well. So that led me to ask the question: Sp what happens if I put cancer in an environment where they can no longer sense each other? What happens to them? If they can't sense, how do they form a tumor? Can they still form a tumor? If they've already have a tumor, will the tumor disintegrate? Will it break down? These are really fundamental questions and yet no one has ever done it before. But before I can do that, I also need to have a good cancer model. So a lot of drugs and so on has been developed in the laboratory, but they don't hold up when it gets to the human body, and that's because of the different types of environment. But thanks to the UTS faculty of engineering, they were able to support us with a bioprinter in which I'm able to create an artificial 3D tumor model that mimics the biological environment. And this is one of the bioprinters. I'm printing little spheroids that eventually grows to look like these. So these are three-dimensional cancer tumor models, artificially created in the laboratory at a high-throughput production, allowing us to screen for drugs, and study cancers, and see how they work. So now I have both technology, a microgravity device and a realistic cancer model. So let's put cancer to the test. How do they hold up in microgravity? So I started off with a nasal cancer. You can see in normal gravity, normal gravity, these cancer cells are like this. After 24 hours in microgravity, there's less of them. That look really promising. Then I looked at ovarian cancer. So, again, you see a large population in the normal gravity environment, and a significant reduction in the microgravity. I'm happy with that, I kept going, breast cancer. Again, you see a large variety of cells, and after 24 hours, you have reduction in the cells and they look also different as well. So just what this tells me is that you have nasal, ovarian, breast cancer. Three different parts of your body and three different types of conditions, and yet all of them respond very similarly to microgravity in that they reduce in numbers and also in shapes and sizes. What was also very interesting is the surviving cell, cancer cells, if I return them back to normal gravity environment, after 72 hours they actually retain their full functions back. So isn't this really interesting? It takes an astronaut about 72 hours to adapt, to start to feel the effects of microgravity in space, and similarly, and then the opposite, it takes 72 hours for cancers to get its full function. So I don't believe in coincidences; there must be something there as well. So from this result, we looked at is the cytoskeleton a possible mechanosensor? So if you think of the cytoskeleton as a structure of the cell, it's no different than the bones of our body, so is this a possible mechanosensor? Are they sensing through their cytoskeleton? Maybe they are. So we dug a little bit deeper. So the changes in the cell number, is it because the cancer cells are actually dying or are they just, they can't fit, attach anymore, they're just floating around? What's happening to their cell cycle? So what we found was that, if you remember from high school when we did all those mitosis stuff? I had to go back because I forgot about it. You know how there's different phases of your cells on replication? So what we found was the cells were actually stuck in this G2 phase where they're actually unable to grow, and this is very interesting because just by using microgravity and no drugs at all, we were able to make the cancer cells not only come off, but they stuck in the state where they can not grow anymore, and this is very significant. So I wanna make it clear to everyone, we're not in it to create a miracle drug. I just don't think that's possible. But what we're able to do is to provide us with an advantage to coexist with current therapies and to make a more effective therapy for people suffering from cancer. The number one question, again, from people is, "So are you saying that if we have cancer, "if we fly out to space on say Virgin Galactic "we'll be cured of it?" That's not what I'm proposing here, and I've talked to a few ministers, they even propose, "Well, how about we build a big simulator "where we can put the cancer patient in there "and we spin them around?" I said, "That could be a problem "because the first thing that's gonna happen "is they're gonna vomit to death first "before anything actually gets cured." So that's not very feasible. What I am proposing is to, like the bone drug, into tricking the body, tricking the cancer, that it is in microgravity. So if they can sense the microgravity here on Earth, it means that there's some sort of sensory receptors that we can target and make it feel like it's actually out in outer space, just like virtual reality. It can be very convincing. So if we can convince cancer that it's actually floating in space, then how does it, it can no longer function and we can target it with current therapies and have a better much effect on them. So where do we actually go from here? So everything I've told you right now has been done in the laboratories. So this year I bought a new project called Project J.I.A., this is the patch, and what we want to do is actually conduct this experiment, in actually in space. So working with Airbus, Arlula, and Zertia, these are the first Australia companies that can help facilitate this type of mission launch, and the Airbus engineers will be coming to help us integrate with the air systems so that we can make a launch. Also I'm partnering with Harvard and MIT as well. Now when I say Harvard, MIT, I'm not collaborating with some young professors that just think space is cool. These are professors, these are well-renowned researchers, professors to be at the top of their game in the cancer field. These are people who you normally don't meet, and if you do, you have about five minutes of their time that they actually care to listen to you. But, yeah, when I first told them about my project, they actually gave me their complete support. So if I can convince professors, world-leading professors from Harvard and MIT, it means I'm actually doing, hopefully I'm doing something that's actually right. So what does this mission means? It's gonna be Australia's first research mission to the International Space Station. Now this is actually very historical because we, Australia has actually never launched a research mission to the ISS and this is gonna be the first one. Now initially I wanted it to be a mission where it's just promoting Australian innovation, Australian glory and everything, but I think that sends a wrong message, so that's why I partnered with Harvard and MIT, because I want this to send out the message that this is a mission for humanity and for all humankind. It's not just for Australians but for everyone that is on Earth. So in April, just a couple months ago, a company in the U.S. called Emulate, they also, too, started to send stuff into space, and to study brain, kidney, and lung as well on the ISS, and this how happens to be my supervisor from Harvard. It's one of his company, so I was a little bit upset that he beat me to it, but at the same token, there is no one else on Earth that can say that they're in competition with him because no one can be like him. He's just a person that thinks two steps ahead of everyone, so, actually, it's actually a good complement. It reinforces that what we're doing is actually really novel and, more importantly, impactful. So what are we doing as part of our Project J.I.A.? So what does it stand for? It stands for Joint International Astrobiology. So my friend calls it Josh in Action, which sounds cool as well, so either interpretation is fine. But not only is this gonna be Australia's first research mission to the ISS, it's also gonna be one of the most advanced cell biology study to be conducted in space. So there is not a lot of people in the world that has actually conducted this type of study in space. If you wanna send a satellite into space, that could be done quite easily, but what we're talking right now is sending live cells into space, that has to survive it, we have to maintain it, and we have to get them down back to Earth. So that adds a lot of dimensions of complexity and there are no current technology, so we actually have to build it from scratch. So luckily I have a lot of talented students that had helped me build all these new technology. And why is this the most advanced cell biology study? Is because if you look around, all the study conducted in space has been collecting samples upon returning. What we are able to do is to study the cells live while it's still in space, and that will give us much more accurate results and response than collecting the sample when it gets back to Earth. So we set a launch date to be somewhere in the first quarter of 2020, because launching a space mission is not as trivial as as one now says. So what will actually happen as part of this mission? So we've done the hard part, the developing the space module. We actually have to go to the United States 24 hours before the launch. We have to load the cells into the module. It gets launch, it goes to the ISS, it'll stay there for about 28 days, they'll return back to Earth, and then we process our sample. So you can see while this sounds really easy, it really is not, and then we have to go through a lot of rigorous testing and also regulatory approval. And for Australia to launch anything to the ISS, it actually has to get final approval from the prime minister himself because it's representing Australia. So it's not something that I just thought up and it'll happen. It actually has to go through a lot of process. So, in conclusion, I hope tonight that I'm able to give you a glimpse of what is gonna happen in the next couple of years in the space arena, especially in the space biology, space medicine, and space health care, and that the future for curing Earth-borne diseases might very well be found while conducting this type of research in space. So, finally, like I said, this type of project is not something that I can do by myself, but rather it's a collective work of a lot of talented people, so that's why I like to acknowledge and thank my past and current students for trusting me, having blind faith in me leading them into the unknown, and fortunately we have something to show for it. Also all the international partners that has worked with me to make this possible. And, finally, I would like to end, again, with Isaac Newton's quote, "No great discovery was ever made without a bold guess," and I hope that continues to hold true for moving forward, and I also would like everyone here tonight, if you'd like to follow us in our journey, into our space research, you can find us on Twitter, or follow us on our website, email us. And when I say support, it could be just even words of support. That means a lot to us to have those words of encouragement. We also have a Kickstarter if you're feeling, if you can support us financially, the students as well, that will also be great. So thank you very much, everyone, for listening and coming here tonight, and I hope you've enjoyed and learned something about space tonight.
14 AUGUST, 2019
Dr Joshua Chou is a biomedical scientist at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS), whose laboratory works at the interface of biomaterials, cell mechanics, physics and cell biology. He discussed the evolution of our cells and how they have been shaped by the physical forces of our home planet.
UTS Science in Focus is a free public lecture series showcasing the latest research from prominent UTS scientists and researchers.