On the 15th of May 2021, Malta announced the first scientific program – Maleth, to send its first biomedical science mission to the International Space Station. With great anticipation, this shall usher Maltese science into a new era of space science and space diplomacy.
Together, the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs of Malta with Space Applications Services NV/SA based in Belgium have successfully collaborated in creating a bold and innovative mission experiment that is being led by Joseph Borg. Joseph is an academic at the University of Malta and the current President of the Malta Association of Biomedical Scientists leading his research team in experimental haematology and molecular genetics.
Project Maleth intends to set the foundation for more technical collaborations between Maltese Institutions and organizations as well as International partners in the field. In doing so, this will lay the necessary groundwork for more cutting-edge and breakthrough science building on past success.
Access to the space environment, microgravity and high radiation create a unique opportunity to study various experimental biology experiments and fundamental biomedical science questions that in turn can have implications for real-world clinical problems. Two applications that Professor Borg and the team are working on jointly with colleagues Afshin Beheshti (Principal Investigator at the NASA Ames Research Centre) and Christopher Mason (Principal Investigator at the Weill Cornell Medicine, USA) include the study and effects of space on human blood and control of haemoglobin expression. Another project is the study of skin microbiomes of Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus patients. Skin wounds and ulcers in diabetic patients of Malta present a very challenging and significant medical problem with 10 new cases each week that require attention and medical care.