The Amazing Astronaut Millie Hughes-Fulford

It was just announced that astronaut Millie Hughes-Fulford passes away yesterday on the 4th of February 2021. She was a payload specialist who flew on the STS-40 mission along with specialist Drew Gaffney to complete investigations on biomedical studies.

Millie Elizabeth Hughes-Fulford. Credit: NASA

The medical data she brought back from the mission was far more than any other NASA flight, having completed 18 experiments!

Hughes-Fulford has contributed so much to science within her life. With partly the aid of NASA, she was able to research into different cancer growth and the cause of osteoporosis in astronauts and T-cell activation in microgravity. I’m no medic and I struggled to understand the details of these experiments, but I believe these effects in astronauts basically mimic what happens in elderly bodies; the astronauts are experiencing accelerated ageing. Don’t quote me on this!

I didn’t even know microgravity has so many effects on the body!

Here’s an exert from the abstract of one of her articles:

STS-40 badge

These data suggest that gravity regulates T-cell activation not only by transcription promotion but also by blocking translation via noncoding RNA mechanisms. Moreover, this study suggests that T-cell activation itself may induce a sequence of gene expressions that is self-limited by miR-21.

Some of her more recent experiments have been sent to the ISS via SpaceX, and more details on her work can be found on her website.

I’m so honoured to have lived alongside people like Millie Hughes-Fulford, who has dedicated her career towards the health and vitality of many. Rest in Peace Millie!

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