The European Space Agency (ESA) has appointed Prof. Donal O’Gorman from Dublin City University as a member of its Medical Board.
The responsibility of the Board is to guarantee the safety and well-being of humans in spaceflight and to ensure the ethical conduct of research studies. The Board also establishes and approves the medical and psychological criteria for astronaut selection.
This is the first time Ireland has been represented at this level. Prof. O’Gorman is an exercise physiologist who specialises in whole-body and skeletal muscle metabolism.
He is the current Director of the National Institute of Cellular Biotechnology at DCU, he leads the 3U Diabetes Consortium, and is chair of the DCU Research Ethics Committee.
His research aims to advance our understanding of the cellular processes that are activated during exercise and how human cells adapt to exercise training. This research is particularly relevant to patients with type 2 diabetes, or those at risk of developing the disease.
In his work with the ESA, Prof. O’Gorman has been investigating the changes that take place due to inactivity. During spaceflight, astronauts experience changes in their bodies that are similar to accelerated ageing.
This work is helping us understand how metabolism can be regulated in the microgravity of space and this information is also being used to learn about ageing and age-related diseases on Earth.
Speaking about the appointment Prof O’Gorman said:
“I'm delighted to have been selected as a member of the Medical Board of the European Space Agency. Incredible research is being performed on the International Space Station, a laboratory travelling at 27000 km/hr and 400 km above the earth.
We have a responsibility to protect the health and safety of astronauts conducting and participating in research experiments in this isolated environment. Ireland's participation in the space sector is rapidly expanding and our contribution will increase further as ESA moves to the next phase of establishing a base on the moon.”
Prof. O’Gorman is able to participate in ESA-funded research projects thanks to Ireland’s participation in ESA programmes, including the European Exploration Envelope Programme (E3P) with support from Enterprise Ireland.
Ireland contributes €18M per annum to ESA programmes, with more than 60 Irish companies having received ESA contracts since 2010.
This involvement has led to the development of technologies used on spacecraft and commercialised back on earth for the benefit of society, in areas including electronics, advanced materials, software and healthcare.
Commenting on the announcement Professor Brian MacCraith said:
“I want to congratulate Prof Donal O’Gorman on his appointment to the Medical Board of the European Space Agency.
The appointment is a reflection of the sterling work carried out by Donal and his outstanding research contribution in the discipline of exercise physiology over a long number of years.
It is also noteworthy that this is the first time that Ireland has been represented at this level and it is a powerful endorsement of the international significance of research carried out by Prof O’Gorman over many years.”