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Koya press release

Koya Medical and Essity Sponsor Forum for Physicians, Lymphedema Therapists and Researchers to Discuss Health

Astronaut in outer space working on a satellite wearing a spacesuit

DENVER--(BUSINESS WIRE)-- Koya Medical, a transformative healthcare company focused on developing breakthrough treatments for lymphedema and venous diseases, and Essity, a leading global hygiene and health company that has as history of supporting space travel through the manufacturing of compression suits for astronauts, are sponsoring a forum to highlight the importance of venous and lymphatic health for space travel. The event takes place October 8, 2021 at the 35th annual congress for the American Vein & Lymphatic Society (AVLS).

The unique environment of space travel – reduced gravity, radiation exposure, varying atmospheric conditions, and the mental and physical stresses – imposes many challenges to human physiology and adaptability. The current goal is to create “nominal human function,” to extended safe habitation and exploration in space, and to ensure that humans thrive and quickly recover upon returning to Earth’s “1G” environment. For more than 50 years, NASA’s Human Research Programs have studied the intricacies of the human body in the weightlessness of space. Understanding the effects of spaceflight on humans is essential, and NASA and its European, Japanese, Russian and Australian colleagues have been particularly interested in investigating how the body reacts to long-duration spaceflight as the agency plans for extended missions on the Moon and Mars [1].

A particular area of concern is the effect of space travel on the lymphatic system. Lymphatic function is important in the maintenance of normal tissue fluid volume, but it is not clear how microgravity influences lymphatic pumping (lymphangion contractility) and the potential impact upon associated immune function. What has been observed is that during spaceflight fluids shift toward the head, neck and upper torso, as a result of fluid volume transfer from the legs [2]. In essence, this is akin to “reverse” venous hypertension. More research in the true weightlessness of space is needed before extensive and longer duration space travel to the Moon and Mars is undertaken.

In our “1G” environment on Earth, lymphatic system dysfunction or failure can cause a buildup of protein rich fluids resulting in uncomfortable swelling in arms, legs, and other regions of the body called lymphedema [3]. Lymphedema is commonly caused by cancer and treatment for cancer due to damage of the lymph system from the tumor itself, radiation treatment, or the surgical removal of lymph nodes. Another leading cause is lymphedema of venous etiology, resulting from chronic venous insufficiency. Well recognized genetic abnormalities also contribute to lymphedema development. An estimated 20 million Americans live with lymphedema, which often is progressive and incurable, though lymphedema recognition and foundational education of physicians and care providers continues to fall short. “Elevating” the topic to involve the lymphatic dysfunction associated with space travel may help improve these shortcomings.

About the Space Forum Dinner

On the evening of October 8, 2021, a visionary and thought leading group of ~60 of the world’s leading vascular, lymphatic and venous physicians, therapists and researchers will gather at the Colorado Air and Space Port to discuss opportunities to ensure there are supports in place to help facilitate space travel and further the efforts of terra firma lymphedema education and patient care. Fittingly, the Colorado Air and Space Port is preparing to serve as a horizontal launch facility for Colorado and Mid-America for commercial space transportation, research and development.

Space Forum Dinner participant Frank Aviles, PT, CWS, FACCWS, CLT-LANA, ALM, AWCC, DAPWCA, Wound Care Service Line Director for Natchitoches Regional Medical Center said, “This will be an exciting meeting of experts to collectively share and expand vascular and lymphatic knowledge to impact the safety of future space travel. Plus, this work may be the key to unlock issues here on earth.”

The event will include presentations by the most prominent luminaries in the field including:

  • Dr. Stanley Rockson, M.D., FACP, FACC, Professor and Chief Consultative Cardiology and Director of the Stanford Center for Lymphatic and Venous Disorders at the Stanford University
  • Monika Gloviczki, M.D., PhD, Professor Emeritus, Mayo Clinic
  • Alan Hargens, Ph.D., Professor and Director of the Orthopedic Clinical Physiology Lab at the University of California, San Diego, 20-year career of NASA grants
  • Michael Davis, Ph.D., Curators' Distinguished Professor and Margaret Proctor Mulligan Professor of Medical Research, University of Missouri
  • Andrew Aldrin, Ph.D., Associate Professor and Director of the Aldrin Space Institute, Florida Institute of Technology
  • Scott Smith, Ph.D., Manager for Nutritional Biochemistry, Nutritional Biochemistry Laboratory, NASA Johnson Space Center
  • Eno Ebong, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering and Bioengineering at Northeastern University
  • Heather Hettrick, PT, Ph.D., Director of Wound Education for International Lymphedema and Wound Training Institute, and Professor of Physical Therapy, Nova Southeastern University, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida
  • Frank Aviles, PT, CWS, FACCWS, CLT-LANA, ALM, AWCC, DAPWCA, Wound Care Service Line Director, Natchitoches Regional Medical Center
  • M. Mark Melin, M.D., FACS, RPVI, FACCWS, Wound Care Surgeon, M Health Fairview, Adjunct Associate Professor, Department of Surgery, the University of Minnesota, and graduate of the Mayo Clinic surgical program.

“Koya, through Dayspring, its mobility-enabled treatment option for lymphedema, is making strides to change care for the millions who currently have lymphatic issues; thus, it is important that the company’s innovative and problem-solving mindset is leveraged as science advances to support space travel,” said Stanley G. Rockson, MD, FACP, FACC, Professor and Chief of Consultative Cardiology and Director of the Stanford Center for Lymphatic and Venous Disorders at Stanford University, and Koya Chief Medical Officer. “These discussions may also lead to insights that can improve care even for those who are not directly involved in space exploration.”

Koya Medical recently announced it received Food and Drug Administration (FDA) 510(k) clearance for its innovative active compression therapy system Dayspring®, which provides people with lymphedema and venous diseases the mobility during therapy that traditional treatments lack.

“The next frontier is vertical ascent to the perpetual horizon where spacecraft and humans travel at five miles per second. In breaking the boundary of our protective atmosphere and entering the incredible environment of space exploration, our explorers must maintain high functioning consistent situational awareness to maintain the safety of all women and men,” said Dr. Melin. “This demands effective and durable countermeasure development, from the months long pre-flight preparation to inflight nominal function, to post flight rapid restorative recovery. Our goal is to facilitate the conversation, the research, and the translation of this new extensive data stream to improve global population health at a more clinically effective and cost-efficient point, like ‘Moore’s Law’ applied to healthcare. Over the next several years, we will be seeking impact investing to gain measurable outcomes for reliable countermeasure development. The typical benchtop to bedside translation cycle is 15 years. We need to accelerate and reduce this cycle length to 3-5 years for spaceflight research. The resilience of the international scientific community, thru the combined and de-siloed efforts of taking on the pandemic, have created new era pathways that must be replicated in other fields of study. The potential “spinoffs” to terrestrial health applicability are simply too valuable. The fellowship of meeting in person and creating deeper foundational relationships will move the bar.”

“This is a ‘first in class’ think tank opportunity to discuss lymphatic and venous function in the weightlessness of space,” said Dean Bender, Executive Director of American Vein & Lymphatic Society.

In addition to Essity and Koya Medical, the event received sponsorship support from VitasupportMD, Chuback Medical, ACI Medical and the International Lymphedema & Wound Training Institute – organizations that are leading the way on exciting new advancements for the treatment of lymphedema.

Essity through its 65-year-old brand JOBST® has been supporting NASA for the past 10+ years manufacturing compression suits for astronauts. “We are extremely proud of how over the years this relationship has supported both the present and the future of space travel,” said Eric Johnson, MBA, National Sales Director East at Essity. “We continue that dedication in support of the LIVING Dinner chaired by M. Mark Melin, MD, FACS, RPVI which includes many of the brightest minds in wound care, vascular and lymphatic medicine in the US.”

“Micronized Purified Flavonoid Fraction (MPFF) is beneficial for the venous and lymphatic circulation by increasing venous tone, decreasing inflammation and edema” according to Monika Gloviczki, M.D., PhD, Mayo Clinic Gonda Vascular Emeritus, Chief Science Officer at VitasupportMD. “These properties make MPFF an excellent candidate for further research to determine if this nutraceutical can alleviate the detrimental effects of weightlessness, preserve and protect normal lymphatic and venous function in astronauts and astrocivilians.”

“We are so excited to bring a diverse and collective mind together for this unique event,” said Heather Hettrick, PT, PhD, Director of Wound Education for International Lymphedema & Wound Training Institute, and Professor in the Physical Therapy Program at Nova Southeastern University. “We believe through collaboration, transparency and common goals we can help shape the future of healthy and sustainable space travel.”

Space Travel History

  • In 1947, fruit flies were launched into space. Later, in 1949, a monkey went to space, and in 1957 a dog named Laika orbited the earth.
  • The first human to orbit the earth in 1959 was Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin.
  • In July of 1969, American Astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the Moon, while Michael Collins piloted the command module in lunar orbit.
  • Overall, an estimated 560 humans have spent time in the weightlessness of space.

Today, several innovative companies are currently working to develop private spacecraft capable of carrying humans into orbit, with visions of creating a sub-orbital space tourism industry. Sooner than one may think, taking a vacation in space, checking into an orbiting space hotel, or even “camping” on the Moon or Mars may be possible. These are likely to become realities as we enter the upcoming decade.

With the rapid expansion of privatized human orbital flight, technological advances are outpacing our understanding of the health impact and effects of the weightlessness and radiation exposure of space travel.

While there is a growing body of clinical research, this topic remains a very niche area with a few phenomenal forward-looking researchers. Limited clinical understanding and limited clinical research dollars for both ground-based spaceflight analogs and true weightlessness (“microgravity”) labs, may slow countermeasure development. Ideally, this meeting will improve both astronaut health and patient/demographic/global health.

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