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The University of Arizona is part of a team of researchers collaborating on a NASA project to advance understanding of astronaut crew health.

The multi-institutional study will investigate the infectious disease risks to NASA crews during spaceflight.

"You learn a hell of a lot from other models of disease," said Zain Khalpey, a cardiothoracic surgeon and research director in the UA Department of Surgery. He is co-leading the study as part of his research of stem cells and organ regeneration.

Khalpey said the project will develop a 3-D model to study infection, "and (help us) understand what would happen to astronauts, who are a particular subgroup of people who are traveling in space, but also every day life. It gives us so many clues to translate this research into reality."

He said the NASA project, in addition to ensuring the health of space travelers, will help develop his research in organ reconditioning and regeneration.

"We will learn a lot about how we can move the field forward and replete the donor-pool for organs, which is severely lacking," Khalpey said.

The NASA research grant is for $750,000 and will fund the collaborative study for three years.