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Space takes centre stage for our Biggest Picture yet

10 Jun, 2015

Big Picture is the Wellcome Trust’s free educational magazine exploring cutting edge science. It aims to place science in its cultural and historical context, as well as connecting research with social and ethical challenges. Calum Wiggins, a writer for Big Picture, gives us an insight into some of the exciting topics featured in the latest edition which is published today…

The Wellcome Trust’s work spans a broad range of areas, but rarely has the Trust’s reach stretched beyond planet Earth. But with the new Big Picture issue on Space Biology, maybe the Trust should expand its ambition beyond being a global charitable foundation… and go interplanetary!

The Tarantula Nebula.  Credit: NASA Marshall Space Flight Center/Flickr CC-BY-NC

The Tarantula Nebula.
Credit: NASA Marshall Space Flight Center/Flickr CC-BY-NC

On second thought – that may not be needed. As Issue 22 of the Trust’s free educational magazine highlights, you’d be surprised how much space science impacts health on Earth. For example:

  • The MiniMed insulin pump. Credit: NASA Technical Reports

    The MiniMed insulin pump. Credit: NASA Technical Reports

    Technology designed for the Viking lander to sniff out life on the surface of Mars in the 1970s was later adapted and used in an insulin pump for people with diabetes.

  • The huntingtin protein is the cause of Huntington’s disease, a hereditary condition for which there is currently no cure. Scientists aiming to use X-ray crystallography to map out the protein’s structure have so far been unable to synthesise its crystalline form because it is so fragile. In 2014, an experiment was sent to the International Space Station with the aim of synthesizing the huntingtin crystal in the microgravity of space.
  • Astronomers from the University of Cambridge applied their technique for spotting galaxies in pictures taken by telescopes to detecting changes in a stained tumour sample. The technique detected the changes more quickly than doctors and matched them for accuracy.
Microscope image of a nervous system tumour alongside an image of stars in the sky. Credit: Left: CNRI/Science Photo Library; right: Rogelio Bernal Andreo (DeepSkyColors.com)

Microscope image of a nervous system tumour alongside an image of stars in the sky. Credit: Left: CNRI/Science Photo Library; right: Rogelio Bernal Andreo (DeepSkyColors.com)

Other highlights from the issue include:

Big Picture isn’t just for teachers and students, you can read all of the articles and access resources from the Space Biology issue on the Big Picture website.

You can also order a copy for yourself or multiple copies for your organisation, all adorned with the wonderful water bear (which in 2007 became the first living organism to survive to vacuum of outer space without protection).

Big Picture: Space Biology

Big Picture: Space Biology

You can also sign up to receive Big Picure updates here.

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