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Dr. William (Bill) Rowe, Sunday, 6-10-12 June 11, 2012

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Dr. William (Bill) Rowe, Sunday, 6-10-12


Guest:  Dr. William (Bill) Rowe.  Topics:  Space medicine, magnesium, calcium & astronaut heart problems, oxidative stress & exercise protocols in space.  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 Dr. Bill Rowe to further discuss certain aspects of human spaceflight (HSF) and space medicine.  Please note that all Space Show programs are educational programs.  This particular interview with Dr. Rowe is no exception.  As an educational program, Dr. Rowe, at the end of the interview, offered to respond to your serious comments & questions posted on the blog and said you could email him through his website, www.femsinspace.com.  Unlike most space medicine discussions, Dr. Rowe goes into lots of details on several key issues.  I have no doubt that some of you will reject, challenge, and not like what you hear. Some of you will take issue with Dr. Rowe & be critical of this program. You might even see him as being negative though that is not the case, but he is definitely scientific. I urge you to discuss disagreements, challenges, & issues with him.  Civility is the only requirement.  During our first hour of this nearly 2.5 hour discussion, Dr. Rowe started out by going over astronaut cardiac issues, referring to former astronauts Jim Irwin & Dave Scott on Apollo 15 pertaining to issues with Irwin’s hear rate.  The articles he mentions on his website are in the upper left hand corner of the home page.  Dr. Rowe then segmented into the first of many magnesium discussions & oxidative stress, using his submarine analog, (www.femsinspace.com/Oxidative_stress.htm.  Microgravity exercise routines were discussed along with the need to get rid of excessive body heat.  Dr. Rowe had much to say about the inadequacy of current on orbit exercise routines & heat.  He also talked about plasma leakage, the loss of magnesium, & what this does in space.  Also in this segment, he went over the Chinese Taikonaut requirements for female crew members, making the case for an all female crew. Don’t miss what he had to say about this.  Our last topic in this segment was 1G and artificial gravity.

In our second longer segment, Dr. Rowe talked about recent studies pertaining to calcium usage & he brought this home to HSF.  We talked about the importance of the calcium-magnesium ratio. Caller John introduced us to the issue of Vit. D3 & calcium.  Tim called to make some good points about artificial gravity in terms of needed data points.  He did not agree with the all female crew suggestion.  Next, Dr. Rowe talked about the gastrointestinal lining, iron, & bone issues in space.  Dr. Rowe also referred to anthropological studies to see how some groups habits might positively impact skeletal muscle issues in space. Issues with high adrenalin levels were discussed throughout the program along with possible treatment/intervention tools.  At the end, we learned that resolving these complex issues is not just a matter of more money.  I also asked Dr. Rowe about private Mars missions & one way trips with private crews ignoring space medicine factors.  He called them dreamers but in the end if they want to go knowing the risks, they should be able to go.  Dr. Rowe said his research & comments were focused on scientific HSF missions, not the dreamer type missions we often hear & read about in the media.

Post your comments/questions on The Space Show blog.  You can email Dr. Rowe through his website.


1. Stacy Nugen - November 2, 2012

Calscium is really necessary for the formation of strong bones and nails. ‘

Most up-to-date posting coming from our new web portal

2. Jonah Catanach - August 22, 2012

I always take Magnesium supplements because it helps with my bruxism. Magnesium can really relax the tensed muscles.”:`:.

Thanks again http://www.foodsupplementdigest.com/

3. Alistair - July 6, 2012

Interesting article that shows that genetic variations (in space) can occur in very short timespans (~11 days).


The space environment would be the most significant environmental change that human bodies have been exposed to in tens of thousands of years, indeed possibly millions of years. Thus, this sheds some possibility that genetic variation may be possible in this new environment.

As I’ve said before, I’m no expert; no more than a university course level understanding of biology.

Would the introduction into the only new environment humans have been exposed to in hundreds of thousands of years, lead to faster genetic changes?

I don’t know… I’m asking if this is possible?

William J. Rowe M.D. FBIS - July 7, 2012

Alistair Although there is no question regarding the accelerated aging process in Space, perhaps by a factor of 10, perhaps you are asking whether this phenomenon can somehow be transferred to an accelerated change in one’s gene in microgravity. I see no reason why this would be so but if I get a chance, I’ll ask one of the true experts at the International Conference on Genetic Syndromes and Gene Therapy, November 19-21, 2012, in San Antonio; I am going to present a paper at this conference: Long Space Missions and Gene Therapy.

4. William J. Rowe M.D. - June 19, 2012

Alistair I totally agree with your last statement.What I meant by the word : exactly —is simply that we can ‘ t get by with anything less than our Earth degree of gravity which our genes demand. Over and over again I am asked on the Space Show and E mails the same question : why can’t we eventually adapt in Space ?. As a former prominent flight surgeon put it: ” 1 G is the law.” Thanks.

5. Alistair - June 17, 2012

I’m in no way doubting the other aspects of your discussion. I’m an engineer/physicist, not a doctor, so I defer to your expertise on genes, and how quickly we can adapt. It was just pure speculation on my part that some people ‘might’ be more adaptable than others.

I would like to see actual experimentation at lower gravity levels, such as that for proposed on-orbit variable gravity labs. It may well be fruitless (especially at the more extreme variations e.g. 1/3, 1/6), as you point out.

The main point of my original comment is how do you define “1 g”. 1 g is an average value whereas the real value does vary, slightly; Hence we are already adapted to slight variations, e.g. 9.789 m/s-2 at poles versus 9.832 m/s-2 at equator, versus the typical 9.8 or 9.81 used in back of the envelope calculations. This isn’t a huge variation, but it is a variation from “1 g”.

So, how far beyond that range of gravity can we also adapt? Given that we have no current way to actually measure long term effects beyond the above range, I, as a non-doctor would be curious what the true range of values is. Perhaps it’s already at its limits, but perhaps not. We have no empirical evidence, other than ~1g, micro-g, and limited 1/6 g.

You may well be right that ~1g is the only viable level of gravity, without genetic modification as a previous guest has suggested. I’m suggesting that your use of “exactly” 1g should be modified to “very close” to 1g.

I’m glad you come on the show (9 times now?); the wider space enthusiast community does need to face up to the reality of all the human factors issues (and not just the gravity issue) that need to be addressed before we can get beyond the cradle.



William J. Rowe M.D. FBIS - June 17, 2012

Alistar It all boils down to the demands of our genes. There is no evidence that they have changed significantly in 50,000 years. We MAY not begin to ” adopt ” to a significant degree for at least at least another 50,000 years ?? If you are not willing to accept this then you apparently don’t accept the concept of evolution. As I mentioned on the program last time, the studies by the Russians on Mir showed that after 5 months in microgravity 2 vessel dilators and clot busters were no longer ” detectable”. In addition the gene ( erythropoietin) required for bone marrow production of red blood cells does not completely perform its function in microgravity. Furthermore the gene required for building and repairing new blood vessels ( VEGF) does not function adequately. That is why I addressed these problems– discussing gene therapy —in a peer-reviewed publication a few years ago and will present this concept again at the International Conference on Genetic Syndromes and Gene Therapy, Nov. 19-21, 2012, San Antonio. I greatly appreciate your interest.

Alistair - June 18, 2012

Dr Rowe,

I honestly think we’re making mountains out of mole hills on this back and forth.

I’m not sure where you get the impression that I’m disputing any of what you have said with respect to genes. Perhaps my use of “adapt” was a little too loose in the way that you would normally define it.

I’m guessing most of us don’t want to wait for 50K years to see if our genes will favorably mutate/evolve to allow us to better survive in space. I’m beginning to think that genetic modification will be the most reliable way of. I would love to be wrong, however. I do entirely accept evolution.

Anyway, I’m just asking that when you say, “exactly 1g”, what do you mean? Nothing is exact. As I have pointed out, gravity on Earth varies ever so slightly. Thus, you must accept that “exact” is not actually exact (though it is close, given that the variation is just ~0.1% from the poles to the equator).

I’m just questioning how much bigger could this range be? 0.5%? 1%? 10%? Based on your statements here and on the show, I guess I’ll just have to accept that your use of “exact” actually includes a small range, whether or not you realize or accept that. You may well be right that we cannot go much beyond what we already experience (what you call exactly 1g and what I’d call a small variance around 1g).

I’ll find some time to review some of the papers you referenced on the show, to hopefully, speak more intelligently on these issues.

Thanks for putting up with my questioning and taking the time to respond.



6. William J. Rowe M.D. FBIS - June 14, 2012

Alistair, In addition to my previous remark, regarding your point that somehow we can ADAPT, I emphasized in my discussion of genes that there has been essentially no change in our genes in the past 50,000 years. Visit the Galapagos Islands, as I emphasized on one of my previous shows; I visted there in the seventies. It is 600 miles west of South America. The birds there were first exposed to Man about 100 years before Charles Darwin’s arrival in about 1830. You could easily walk up to any bird there and touch it but the guards won’t let you.

7. William J. Rowe M.D. FBIS - June 13, 2012

If a respected engineer appeared as a guest on the Space Show I, having had no education in this field, wouldn’t have the audacity to explore reasons why the statements he or she put forth might be fallacious, if the statements seemed completely logical.
Why is it that listeners – with no medical background — come up with statements such as yours ?
If you become ill would you consider seeking help from an engineer rather than a physician ?

8. Alistair - June 12, 2012

Great show, and Dr Rowe is always a good guest. I’m just not convinced that the human body cannot adapt to small, but significant changes in gravity (maybe a 0.05g variation).

Without experimentation this whole discussion is largely academic. I would not be surprised if there are significant issues with adapting to 1/3 or 1/6 g; Dr. Rowe outlines just a few medical issues that must be overcome.

Still, I would not be surprised if there are some people are genetically more adaptable, but figuring out what the ‘good’ genes are will take some definite study. The human body is fairly resilient and adaptable (and also fragile).

Perhaps a very gradual introduction to lower gravity would work. Question is, how long for adaptation? Months? Years? Generations?

Finally, the Earth is not a uniform mass, and there are slight variations in gravity across the surface. Also, the higher the altitude you are (either on land or in an airplane), the lower gravity is. Technically, gravity at your head is less than your feet.
Thus, the human body has already adapted to slight variations (albeit very slight variations). Here’s a good, but brief discussion with only a few numbers on this issue:

So just how “exact” is the 1 g?

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