Steve Roy
Media Relations Department
(256) 544-0034

RELEASE: 00-049

People on Earth will benefit
from numerous microgravity experiments conducted during Sen. John Glenn’s
historic return to space aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery in October

After a year’s analysis of
data collected during the STS-95 flight, scientists reported the mission’s
microgravity experiments are contributing information to such diverse
fields as medicine, agriculture and manufacturing. The investigations
were managed by NASA’s Lead Center for Microgravity Research – the Marshall
Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.

During the mission, Glenn —
the subject of various life science experiments on the aging process —
worked as a payload specialist, or scientist in orbit. In microgravity
— the near-weightlessness of space — he and other crew members activated
and monitored experiments aimed at improving life on Earth.

Glenn worked with several experiments
that may help improve treatments for life-threatening diseases. One result:
treating solid tumors may become more effective
using drugs enclosed in liquid-filled microcapsules that can be injected
into arteries leading directly to the tumor. A new microencapsulation
electrostatic processing system using microballoons was tested in space,
and results are being used to refine the manufacturing process on Earth.

STS-95 results from another
commercial experiment are being evaluated by a biopharmaceutical company
that is testing advanced cell separation technologies. These technologies
could be used to produce hemoglobin products to replace whole human blood
in transfusions.

High-quality protein crystals
were produced during the closely watched flight, and scientists obtained
the best data ever collected on human recombinant insulin crystals. Using
the crystal data, scientists can model the structure of this type of insulin
more accurately, and pharmaceutical companies may be able to use the structural
data to improve insulin treatments used to control diabetes.

Other protein crystals grown
during the mission could help pharmaceutical companies learn more about
how to treat AIDS and Chagas’ disease — a deadly parasitic disease that
primarily attacks cardiac muscle.

A portion of the microgravity
experiments flown on STS-95 were funded and developed by commercial companies
under NASA’s Space Product Development Program, which encourages industry
to investigate the commercial potential of space. Several research efforts
involved independent, commercial firms. A number of other experiments
were developed and flown through NASA’s Commercial Space Centers – located
in regions across the United States. These centers partner with companies
to develop products using insight gained from space research.

Investigators reported results
from both life and microgravity experiments Jan. 27-28 at the Symposium
on the STS-95 Research Results, sponsored by NASA Headquarters’ Office
of Life and Microgravity Sciences and Applications and the National Institute
on Aging.

More detailed descriptions
of the results presented on microgravity experiments can be found at:

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