The ESA-sponsored Life Sciences Symposium, which opens on 2 June at the
Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden, will present the benefits of
ongoing space research to Earth-bound medical researchers. The Symposium
is a triennial event and this is to be devoted to the results of ESA’s
Microgravity Applications Programme.

The symposium is aptly subtitled Life in Space for Life on Earth: it will
provide an opportunity for physicians and physiological scientists around
the world to share in the work done aboard the International Space Station
and its predecessors. Experiments – and long-term human experience – in
the unique, weightless environment of an orbiting space station can
provide surprising insights into the nature of muscular and skeletal
development, and may well reveal new ways to treat and cure some very
earthly ills. In weightlessness, the human body undergoes some quite
startling adapations very quickly. These alterations, which include muscle
tissue changes and bone loss, make the ISS a very special laboratory in
which to investigate the fundamental mechanisms of human growth and decay
right down to the cellular level.

The ways in which astronauts adapt to microgravity might seem a
specialised area of space science. In fact, the microgravity environment
offers new insights into human physiology, with very real applications
here on Earth. Take osteoporosis, for example. A bone-wasting ailment that
afflicts many millions of elderly women in particular, its mechanisms can
be examined at an accelerated rate in the healthy bodies of weightless
And the physiological changes brought about by the absence of gravity give
useful clues to more mundane — but more widespread — problems, such as
lower back pain.

The Symposium will bring together researchers from all over the world,
from such countries as Australia and Brazil. Among the leading
participants will be five astronauts — two Europeans, Claudie Haigneré
and Ulf Merbold, two Americans and a Russian – recounting their own
experiences of medium- and long-term spaceflight. Topics under discussion
will range from the space-oriented — how future astronauts will be
protected from the long-term consequences of microgravity — to the
fundamental: how genes and gravity combine to shape our bodies.

Further information on the symposium itself is available at :

Journalists wishing to attend the symposium should contact Michel van
Baal, ESA/ESTEC Corporate Communication office, Tel:+31.71.565.3006,

The proceedings will be accessible on the internet. Journalists wishing to
attend the virtual symposium should contact Rebecca Forth to obtain
instructions and a login and password, e-mail :

For more information, please contact :

Michel van Baal

ESA/ESTEC Corporate Communication Office

Tel: +31.71.565.3006

Fax: +31.71.565.5728