There are infinite reasons why NASA has sustained interest in mining the Heliosphere for discoveries and benefits for humanity to bring back to Earth, perhaps even unfolding the secrets to sustaining life for as long as possible. The International Space Station (ISS) is an unprecedented human achievement, the orbiting laboratory provides a unique microgravity environment to conduct multidisciplinary research and technology development that drives space exploration, basic discovery, and transformative Earth benefits. The ISS is the size of a football field orbiting around Earth once every ninety minutes at 17,000 mph, 400 km above Earth. Inside the ISS, the human body is in a constant state of free-fall that gives the appearance of being weightless in the microgravity environment. Intuitively, it is understood that spinning around Earth in this fashion provides many reasons why humans are not equipped for such space explorations. However, formulating a connection with the indigenous angiosperms from Central Asia and South Asia Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica, and Cannabis ruderalis have catalyzed an answer for eliminating high spaceflight risks for devoted NASA astronauts. These flowers have led to the discovery of the Endocannabinoid System (ECS), which could prove to be a very insightful neuroimmunological target of investigation.
It must be understood that currently space explorers indeed face serious physiological damage. Their missions can last up to five months and these damages accumulate each time an astronaut goes out into space. There are currently very few solutions to reversing or eliminating these high spaceflight risks. NASA Astronaut Research Associates endure harsh morbidity conditions such as Orthostatic Intolerance (OI); when simply standing upright becomes a fundamental stressor due to the requirement of rapid and effective circulatory and neurological compensations to maintain blood pressure, cerebral blood flow, and consciousness. Imagine having to constantly deal with this morbidity even after your time with NASA. This is NASA’s rationale to actively search and allocate funds to other researchers to discover solutions to reverse all human body damage; the mission, prevent disease and improve the health of NASA’s devoted astronauts.
Before space tourism becomes an objective reality, these high spaceflight risks must be addressed and one way to accelerate this process would be to begin a working towards a healthy dialog of truths discovered by medicinal cannabis research and technology development. The ECS is a potentially revolutionary answer to many future studies to be conducted on the ISS. The discovery of the ECS was a direct result of the genus Cannabis and its phytocannabinoids (THC, CBD, CBN). THC molecules bind like a lock and key to plasma membrane embedded cannabinoid receptors (CB1, CB2). These receptors are the most abundant G-protein coupled receptor in the mammalian brain. It is known to also mediate neuroimmunological communication. Organically, the biosynthetic production of these little complicated machines, the endocannabinoids (i.e. bioactive lipids that bind to fatty acid binding proteins, or FABPs) like Anandamide (AEA) and 2-Arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG) are in every living animal except insects. The ECS is indeed evolutionary very ancient. It is a multidimensional neuroimmunomodulator controlling neurotransmitters and metabolites. During acute stress, the ECS communicates between the hypothalamus (i.e. major hub of synaptic traffic) and the adrenals, causing levels of 2-AG to go down in hypothalamus, and levels of corticosterone go up in the adrenals. The opposite is true for chronic stress, this system is very specific and requires ideal spatial and temporal signaling. This is why Dr. Vincenzo Di Marzo has characterized them with “Good cop, Bad cop” roles within the body.
Overall ECS Programs: Thermoregulation, Pain/Nociception modulation, Fear-Learning, appropriate stress responses (fight-or-flight/rest-and-digest), regulation of appetite, energy homeostasis, synaptic plasticity, neuroinflammation, and even more to be discovered. The cellular communities within the ECS consisting of FABPs and bioactive lipids have been intricately engineered to integrate and communicate with rest of the body.
Therefore, quantifying the mosaic of each individual astronaut’s neurotransmitters and metabolites will be a giant leap towards gathering the knowledge necessary to reverse spaceflight risks. In regards to the ECS, each of its functions is relevant to a NASA astronaut’s journey through microgravity environment missions. They exhibit a lack of appetite, energy imbalance, fear, stress, pain, spinal misalignments, muscle atrophy, neuroinflammation, neurodegeneration and more not mentioned. Pioneer researchers publishing literature on medicinal cannabis have stretched our imagination with the ingenuity of the ECS. These bioactive lipids and FABPs are all essentially communicating with DNA-binding proteins to express a variety of genes and make epigenetic modifications. These genes can produce a helpful or harmful effect depending on each individual’s programs in place.
Another focused spaceflight risk is VIIP syndrome or Visual Impairment/Intracranial Pressure due to this extreme microgravity environment. The space explorers get “puffy face.” Blood rushes to our head because our fluid mechanics are dependent upon pressure in microgravity, the pressure in our head changes from 30 to 100 mm Hg. This significant blood pressure increase causes VIIP syndrome and is intimately connected with impaired immune function (another spaceflight risk). In addition, the neurovascular unit (NVU)/blood-brain barrier (BBB) becomes more permeable with an increased risk for multi-focal neuroinflammation and neurodegeneration. Overall, a microgravity environment in space causes many negative physiological phenotypes. Imagine if a space explorer could properly modulate their own endocannabinoid system that would magically reverse ECS program dysfunction. This reality definitely sparks NASA’s interest.
With an endogenous modulation of the ECS, NASA astronauts could show increased appetite, reduced fear, decreased neuroinflammation, and many other benefits from proper molecular signaling pathways being activated or deactivated in the right neuron and the right time. Researchers can probe the levels of neurotransmitters and metabolites before, during, and after spaceflight with respective controls and analyze the data. After data analysis, a dynamic small-molecule map of NASA astronauts turned global profile allows researchers to discover translational biomarkers. For example, lipid mediator pathways in neuroinflammation include small-molecules like arachidonic acid (AA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) that are going to be present regardless of pro-inflammatory stimuli. Identifying the levels of these small-molecule changes in NASA astronauts as the space mission progresses will be key to understanding the physiological changes of the space explorer; moreover, ensuring an early detection of biomarkers that can lead to methodical intervention to course correct and improve their health.
SunRay Celestial Agents of Love (SRCAL) has an “Evolution through Innovation” mantra to apply to unifying subsystems into an integrated whole. Noninvasive holistic mobile medical device technologies are currently being designed and developed as this is a core system requirement for SRCAL. With prime channels/partnerships, such a mobile medical device could teach the user to gently manipulate their ECS and mind-body dynamics. Basically, the user consciously modulates their subsystems to a homeostatic balanced equilibrium (Wabeh H, 2008). This technology takes advantage of nature’s mechanisms like circadian rhythms, ultradian rhythms, and the mind-body connection (Shannahoff-Khalsa DS, 2012). With an endogenously-stimulated balanced equilibrium of molecular interactions within the ECS, optimal health can be achieved (stay tuned for SRCAL’s expansion).
In 2014, there is an increasing praise for the presence of the cannabis community, therapeutic technologies, industry, and tax revenue possibilities. In time, NASA will also help others understand the benefits of learning about true cannabis history, ECS education and the implications of saving high spaceflight risks with medicinal cannabis research data findings.
By: Daniel J. Gomez