Science fiction has long promised an age of interplanetary human existence. Scenes of spaceships hopping from one galaxy to the next are so common, it seems almost inevitable that future generations will one day vacation on Mars. But, if we are ever going to achieve life on other planets, we first have to figure out if the human body can tolerate it.
Some of the best data we have on the subject comes from American astronaut Scott Kelly. Kelly spent a year living on the International Space Station while his twin brother Mark, also an astronaut, was on Earth. Scientists from all over the country studied the impact life in space had on Scott Kelly, and compared changes in his body to his brother.
One of those scientists was UC San Diego Professor of Medicine, Michael G. Ziegler, MD. In a recent talk at UC San Diego Extension’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, Ziegler detailed some of the more interesting findings from the study. Scott Kelly lost weight. There were significant changes to his gene expression. He lost collagen. His carotid artery thickened. His bones became less dense. His eye shape changed, forcing him to wear glasses. While he was in space, his performance on cognitive tests improved. But, his performance plummeted after returning to Earth, and never quite returned to pre-launch levels.
Despite all of this, Ziegler has reason to be hopeful about long-term space travel. He says the year in space study illuminated many of the challenges, and gave researchers some ideas of how to overcome them. Still, it’s probably a little early to start planning your trip to the red planet.
Watch — How a Year in Space Affects the Human Body with Dr. Michael G. Ziegler — Osher UC San Diego
Mosquitos are the deadliest animal on Earth. They spread diseases like yellow fever, chikungunya, West Nile virus and malaria. Malaria alone killed 435,000 people and infected another 219 million in 2017 according to the World Health Organization. There are widespread efforts to combat mosquito-borne illnesses, including revolutionary new gene editing techniques.
Ethan Bier and Valentino Gantz, biologists at UC San Diego, have been researching gene drives – systems that allow scientists to quickly push genes through entire populations. Typically, genetic information from each parent is combined and passed down to their children. Think back to Punnett squares from high school biology. If one parent has blonde hair and the other has brown hair, the brunette would have to carry a recessive blonde gene for any of their children to be blonde. But, gene drives change that. Gantz and Bier came up with a way to use the CRISPR gene-editing technique to insert self-editing genes into mosquitos, so preferred traits are always passed down. Their research shows these traits can take over entire populations within 10 generations, one to two years for mosquitos.
In a recent talk at UC San Diego Extension’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, Bier dove into the details of exactly how gene drives work, and their many potential applications.
Watch — Engineering Mosquitos to Fight Malaria with Ethan Bier — Osher UC San Diego
Income inequality refers to the unequal distribution of income among a population. In the United States, income inequality, or the gap between the rich and everyone else, has been growing for the last several decades.
Economist Valerie Ramey of UC San Diego gives an insightful talk charting the rise, fall and rise again of income inequality in America over the last century. She highlights the special circumstances that created a “Golden Age” for the average worker in the 1950s and 1960s and then follows with the economic changes that led to today’s extreme disparity where the top 1 percent of US households earn nearly 20 percent of the nation’s income.
Watch: The Past, Present and Future of US Income Inequality with Valerie Ramey – Osher UC San Diego
Osher Lifelong Learning Institute and UC San Diego team up once again to host a special conversation about the social, political, and economic future of San Diego.
A recent episode of the Osher UCSD Distinguished Lecture Series follows Jerry Sanders through a much needed discussion on the health and welfare of San Diego. Now serving as CEO of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, Sanders possesses a background of distinguished positions, such as the former San Diego Mayor ’05-’12 and Chief of Police ’93-’99. His culmination of knowledge and experience make him abundantly qualified to examine and advise on the growth of America’s finest city. He even has the audience roaring with humorous tales from his long career along the way.
Watch A Conversation with Jerry Sanders for his insight on the strengths and weaknesses of San Diego in its mission to maintain the San Diego quality of life.
Be sure to visit Osher UCSD Distinguished Lecture Series for a variety of engaging speakers exploring noteworthy issues.
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