Space Savers

From the Dean

The night sky is filled with mythic tales, including one tied to medicine, the story of Asclepius—healer, surgeon, and maker of restorative potions.

According to legend, Asclepius’s study of the curative powers of plants began after he witnessed a snake revive itself by consuming a medicinal herb. With time, he became so adept at healing that Zeus struck him dead with a bolt of lightning. But, recognizing the good Asclepius had brought to humans, Zeus made him a god and assigned him a constellation, one known to the Greeks as the Serpent Bearer. Today, the symbol of the medical profession, a staff with a serpent coiled around it, recalls this legend.

Harvard Medicine takes us to the stars with this issue. For decades, HMS researchers have collaborated with the welter of skilled scientists who embody the nation’s space enterprise. From leading space medicine research in the nascent NASA organization to serving as space-walking mission specialists today, HMS alumni have always made their mark. So too have researchers at the School. These Earth-based explorers have turned the challenges faced by space travelers, such as bone loss, depression, and circadian rhythm disruption, into research investigations. The results? Compounds that may delay osteoporosis, software that delivers behavioral therapy, and light therapy that can reset internal rhythms upset by jet travel or a trip to the moon.

If travel in the troposphere is more your speed, we invite you to read about the inroads technology is making on the delivery of medical care to remote regions of the earth. And if probing the creative and sometimes curious side of research scientists captures your fancy, our look at the quirky nature of gene naming may be just what you seek.

Speaking of searches, our nationwide effort to find a new editor for Harvard Medicine has been successful. With this issue, we enthusiastically welcome Ann Marie Menting. Formerly the magazine’s associate editor, Ann Marie was the person on whom we relied as we—in tandem with our alumni leadership—searched for the magazine’s new editor. She served up the Food issue and has now taken us to the stars. We eagerly anticipate the stories that will explore all points in between.