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Dr. William (Bill) Rowe, Sunday, 1-22-12 January 23, 2012

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Dr. William (Bill) Rowe, Sunday, 1-22-12


Guest: Dr. William (Bill) Rowe.  Topics:  Space medicine issues, magnesium issues, microgravity, ISS experiments, and more.  You are invited to comment, ask questions, and discuss the Space Show program/guest(s) on the Space Show blog, https://thespaceshow.wordpress.com.  Comments, questions, and any discussion must be relevant and applicable to Space Show programming. Transcripts of Space Show programs are not permitted without prior written consent from The Space Show (even if for personal use) & are a violation of the Space Show copyright. We welcomed back to the show Dr. Bill Rowe for updates on his presentations in China and elsewhere, his continued research on the role of magnesium in space medicine, the role of telomeres and gender crew issues for long duration spaceflight including trips to Mars.  During the first segment of our two hour plus program, Dr. Rowe directed us to many of the pages, articles, and documents on his website, www.femsinspace.com.  I urge you to access the pages he directs us to at various times during his talk and follow along with him.  This is important.  In this segment, we talked about the latest telomere research and its application to space flight.  Bill proposed ISS rat experiments and what the experiments should tell us.  He also talked about the role of magnesium deficiency in cells in spaceflight.  He talked about the need to develop a subcutaneous replenishable silicon device/pump to deliver magnesium and explained why this was essential.  Dr. Rowe talked about cardio-vascular issues in spaceflight in the context of magnesium and the overall issues of vascular disease.  This took us into the area of gender lifespan differences and studies showing that an all female crew to Mars might be desirable.  Also in this segment, Dr. Rowe talked extensively about oxidative stress and referred us to his submarine diagram on his website, www.femsinspace.com/Oxidative_stress.htm.  Marshall called in to talk about the ISS and the need for artificial gravity, partial gravity, or 1 G.  Dr. Rowe said 1 G was essential for humans.  Dr. Paul Dear called in from the UK with several questions, including asking about the initiating events for the body to sense microgravity down at the cellular level.  Bill & Dr. Dear also talked about genomic selection for astronauts. 

In the second segment, Dr. Rowe continued his discussion of the first segment topics and his proposed rat experiment regarding telomeres. Many listener calls and emails came in and Dr. Rowe expanded the discussion to the role of calcium for space flight and the calcium/magnesium ratio or relationship.  He was asked why magnesium was not discussed by most human factors space medicine doctors. Dr. Jurist was also asked this question during his call, listen to what they said in response to this question.  Bill talked about exercise routines for spaceflight & said it was a challenge to know the right exercise RX.  Don’t miss his comments on this issue. Near the end, he used Columbus and sailing ships as an example saying we are not ready for long duration spaceflight or a trip to Mars.  Listen to how he and I explained this during the closing comments for the show as I helped Bill phrase his analogy. 

Post your comments/questions for Dr. Rowe on The Space Show blog URL above. Dr. Rowe can be reached via his website.


1. William J. Rowe M.D. FBIS - February 5, 2012

Since my appearance on the show 2 weeks ago, I have received several E mails which clearly pertain to an inability to separate the political from the purely physiologic aspects of space flight regarding gender differences. As I tried to emphasize, males have a decided disadvantage in microgravity. Clearly this is exemplified by my emphasizing on the Show, that In order to have the best chance of survival of the proposed 30 rats — subjected in microgravity to intense treadmill exercises every 12 hours for at least 6 months—- female rats MUST be utilized.

2. William J. Rowe M.D. FBIS - January 30, 2012

There is another point which I didn’t mention regarding the very strong female advantage — reflected in the gender differences of sudden death among marathoners. A recent article in the New England J. of Medicine cites the 10 year incidence of sudden death during marathons or half-marathons. The incidence– not suprisingly– was far higher in males (0.90 per 100,000 in males and 0.16 per 100,000 in females) There are several reasons for this significant difference but I believe the most important factor is the higher levels of adrenaline in males compared to females both at rest and during a race enabling males to run much faster but at a price. This has a very important application with space flight since in microgravity the adrenaline levels of both males and females are twice as high as the supine levels on Earth. Although I didn’t mention gender differences in my recent letter to the editor of our local newspaper in Charlottesville, Virginia, you might want to read my letter, because it mentions telomeres, the major topic of my recent SPACE SHOW. On the internet just insert the following: Each marathoner is different.

3. William J. Rowe M.D. FBIS - January 30, 2012

I am afraid you misunderstood the mechanisms, I described, regarding the female advantage of menstruation— with in turn loss of iron whereas males have no physiological way of losing iron. This female advantage has no direct relationship to magnsium other than the fact that with loss of iron there is in turn a reduction of one mechanism for oxidative stress since higher iron levels in males are conducive to increased hydroxyl radicals ( see the “submarine” on my website)– the most destructive of the free radicals ( atoms or molecules with one or more unpaired electrons). Magnesium is a strong antioxidant for many reasons , one of which is because Mg. binds tightly to transferrin, a vitally important protein in keeping iron out of harm’s way as a powerful oxidant.
Males can offset this physiological advantage by donating blood at least 3 -4 times / year up to at least age 75 provided there is no objection by one’s physician; however one would not be expected to begin donating blood until at least age 17 whereas females begin offsetting this disadvantage of males by age 11 or 12. It would seem risky to donate blood during a prolonged space mission because it would be difficult to establish the proper amount of blood letting and frequency of these blood donations.

Thanks for your question.

4. A Feit - January 30, 2012

Dear Dr. Rowe,

In reference to your comment on the feminine advantage of iron/magnesium fraction in the blood as having to do with space flight.

You mentioned that menstruation lowers the iron content of the blood, therefore raising the magnesium content in the blood.

Would conditioning a male astronaut with regular removal of blood before and during space flight have the same effect?

William J. Rowe M.D. - October 8, 2012

Removal of blood during spaceflight would be contraindicated since there is an invariable deficit of the red blood count, with an invariable 10% reduction in erythropoetin necessary for red blood cell production. Since red blood cells are antioxidants this would intensify the cardiovascular complications of space flight.

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