Path to Mars: Possible with Duchenne cure

This is just a speculative thought which I have compiled after going through my daily life on Google Search engine

First about the trip to Mars. In today's world its estimated that a human trip to Mars will be about 3 years. It will take about 8 to 9 months to go to Mars, spending about a year on Mars and then again about 9 months back.

So how does it connect with Duchenne.

We know from the time astronauts have spent in space that, in a micro gravity environment there is a huge drop in muscle mass. Some estimates say that 5% of the muscle mass is lost in about 10 to 15 week period in a microgravity environment. Muscles, like that of calf and the back, which primarily fight against gravity, may lose upto 20% of the mass. All this muscle loss is because of the body turning off the capability to produce muscles. Human body does this, since in a microgravity environment there is minimal use of muscles. Astronauts move around by a simple push to the space station walls.

As a first reaction to this finding, studies were done to find out whether physical capability of the astronauts on Earth had a impact on the rate of atrophy. Surprise, Suprise. Larger the muscle bulk on earth, ie stronger a person, faster is the muscle atrophy in space.

Step 2. Why not astronauts have do some exercise in space. Bungee cords tied to a tread mill. Special exercising chairs. Several methods were tried but results suggested that exercise in space did not have a significant impact on rate of muscle atrophy.

A side observation at this stage is that it was not just muscle loss in space. There is also significant bone loss too. Some speculations that actually the microgravity environment is actually influencing the way cells work and reproduce. Because the basic mechanism of muscle and bone production is affected, exercise in space is not helping the atrophy.

Some folks are worried that at the rate of muscle and bone loss seen in space trips of astronauts, there is serious risk on a mission to put humans on Mars. Even in the best of cases astronauts may not be able to function properly in extreme situations of takeoff and landing, after having gone through long periods of muscle and bone loss.

So as a next step we need to find a way to boost the muscle and bone regeneration for astronauts. To study the effects of micro gravity on the regeneration capability of the body, Penn State College of Medicine is having a study on the space shuttle mission of NASA (planned for Friday 8th July). The study is to find the effects of microgravity on the conversion of stem cells to bone forming cells.

Looks like NASA is getting serious about regeneration capabilities of stem cells to help the mission to Mars. A similar study on regeneration of muscles from stem cells should be in the offering very soon.

This is where Duchenne comes as a stopover for the trip to Mars. Muscle regeneration is what my son needs on Earth. Probably the astronauts may need a booster shot once a month and my son would need it once a week. But I am sure that the astronauts at NASA and the Duchene community across the world do need this muscle regeneration capability.



The only doubt I have is, about when NASA is planning to send humans to Mars.

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Comment by Tulika on July 18, 2012 at 4:58pm

Some more NASA related research for Duchenne

Japanese scientists crystallized a compound that included a protein responsible for the disease (H-PGDS) and its engineered inhibitor protein (HQL-79). This inhibitor is used treat Duchenne patients on Earth, because it hinders the activity of H-PGDS, slowing the progression of the disease. Researchers were able to identify a hidden water molecule in the samples grown on orbit. This led them to alter the inhibitor protein, making it more effective in treating Duchenne in the laboratory setting. 

More details at CASIS and NASA's DMD research

Comment by Cheri Gunvalson on July 11, 2011 at 4:18pm
Our oldest son who does not have DMD is a mechanical engineer currently on a fellowship at NASA.  I will ask him about human travel to Mars.  He is working on robots going to there. It is my understanding the first unmanned or UAV they hope to send to Mars in 6 years.  If you are interested in learning more about the NASA program, email me at  Cheri
Comment by Tulika on July 8, 2011 at 1:02pm

I stand corrected. NASA has been workign on this muscle issues since 2002.


For more details


and also at

Muscle Proteins
Studies on muscle growth and survival
(Catharine Conley, USA and Laurent Ségalat, France)
Microgravity has an important impact on muscle physiology and growth.
The muscle atrophy experienced by astronauts while in space is welldocumented. C. elegans has muscles which are analogous to vertebrates including humans. In this study, the focus is on two sets of genes coding for muscle function. First, we will investigate the localization of Tropomodulin proteins and other contractile proteins of muscle. In mammals, Tropomodulins display altered expression in response to muscle under-or over-loading. Worms have two Tropomodulin genes, thus the data obtained would provide preliminary results concerning the appropriateness of worms as a model for Tropomodulin involvement in muscle atrophy (Strain CC1). Second, we will analyse the phenotype of C. elegans mutant for genes encoding protein involved in muscle survival. One such protein is the Dystrophin, the product of the gene mutated in Duchêne Muscular Dystrophy, an inherited disease in which patients suffer from a progressive muscle necrosis. We will also study the effect of microgravity on other utations affecting C. elegans muscle survival (including MyoD, perlecan, titin). Two mutants will be flown: LS541 and
LS761. The effects of microgravity will be analysed by immunocytochemistry and microscopy.

Comment by amit gupta on July 6, 2011 at 10:44pm

nice, tulika.

incidentally, i had sent an email to the doctors at delhi army medical hospital who did the bone marrow transplant for another disease that seemed to help with dmd...their response, as expected, was that one case does not prove anything.

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