Space health programme
The Guy Foundation believes that quantum effects are playing a far greater role in biology and health than is currently acknowledged. Indeed, we believe a better understanding of quantum biology could lead to significant advances in therapeutics and our ability to practice medicine.
It has been close to a century since the early pioneers of quantum mechanics discussed its role in biology, and 100 years since Alexander Gurwitsch observed that cells could communicate using metabolically produced photons. This slow progress is now, thankfully, accelerating. Recent breakthroughs in technology are beginning to enable researchers to probe deeper into the extent that life could be using quantum effects. Coupled with the development of metabolic, thermodynamic and quantum theories on the origins of life, this is hastening new insights into biology with the emerging paradigm suggesting that in order to understand life we have to understand how fields integrate with the molecular world.
We have identified space travel as a key area that will benefit from a greater knowledge of the role that fields play in biology. If life is dependent on significant quantum mechanisms to function, such as tunnelling, coherence, spin and resonant energy transfer, then optimal function will be coupled to the planetary environment in which it evolved: a “Goldilocks zone” of environmental conditions. The Foundation believes that a focus on the ways in which the electromagnetic, gravitational and other effects of the space environment can be potentially mitigated, will optimise the health of astronauts and future passengers. This research would also accelerate progress in quantum biology and the advancement of medicine in general.
Recent studies suggest that space travel has a profound effect on mitochondrial health. The Foundation has long had an interest in the role of bioenergetics and the accelerated ageing phenotypes induced by a sedentary lifestyle, and thus, the role of the mitochondrion, and how to reverse these dysmetabolic conditions, for instance, by using natural products, many of which modulate mitochondrial function.
In February 2023 we held a special online Space Health symposium to consider this topic further. The symposium was structured around the concept of non-chemical interactions in biological systems and the role that electric, magnetic and gravitational fields might play. The Proceedings and talk recordings are available here.
We then focused our 2023 Autumn Series around space health; in the six sessions we covered topics ranging from established research on radiation and microgravity to less well-developed areas of investigation, such as magnetic fields and quantum gravity. The Proceedings and talk recordings are available here.
The conclusion we drew from these presentations and discussions, and from one-to-one conversations with a number of scientists, is that while we have seen tremendous progress with spacecraft engineering, this has not been matched in associated biological research and our understanding of the consequences of space travel for human health remains limited.
There is agreement among those working both within and outside space organisations that a great deal more research needs to be done. For example, although much research has gone into understanding how the Earth’s magnetic field could protect against radiation, none has looked into the possibility that life on Earth is dependent on this magnetic field for metabolic function. Growing research now suggests that biology could well be using magnetic properties such as quantum spin for a number of functions, such as navigation and redox signalling.
The Foundation has therefore established the Space Health Programme which is working in collaboration with relevant scientists and organisations to assess and better understand the effects of space travel and habitation on human health, particularly beyond low Earth orbit.
The Programme is seeking to review, and where needed, generate and analyse, evidence from the macro to the micro level: from post-space phenotypes to the altered electromagnetic and gravitational fields seen in the space environment, to effects at the quantum level.
As an independent UK charity, The Guy Foundation is well-placed to play a coordinating and collaborative role in this area. We have formed an independent working group of scientists to act as a pool of expertise for the programme.
Since we launched the programme in 2023 we have:
- Formed a Space Health Programme Working Group, prepared an interim report and invited comment and contributions from the working group on the key issues and evidence (and perceived gaps) and suggestions for experiments that would be required to address the issues.
- Convened the 2023 Autumn Series on Space Health to examine the topic and published the Proceedings.
- Reviewed relevant academic literature, key reports and research in progress and identified the main knowledge gaps.
We are currently:
- Preparing an external report with the working group to set out current knowledge, the key outstanding questions, and the most urgent experiments that are needed to clarify and assess the issues.
- Embarking on initial experiments which we will review before making recommendations for a full experimental programme.
If you are interested in being involved, or hearing more about this work, please contact us.