EpiPens don’t work in space.“It was pretty cool,” said student Hannah Thomson. “NASA didn’t know.”Hannah is one of several students in grades four to six at St.
Brother Andre Elementary School in Ottawa who are part of a NASA initiative called “Cubes in Space.”The program helps children and teenagers around the world launch experiments aboard NASA rockets.For their experiment, the students between the ages of nine and 11 focused on the EpiPen, a common medical tool found in classrooms across the country. The injection device is used to reverse the effects of life-threatening allergies.The kids had a cosmic question: would an EpiPen still work in space?“I thought it was brilliant,” said University of Ottawa chemist Paul Mayer, who helped analyze the group’s findings.“The first part of doing science is asking the right questions and they asked a fantastic question.” Read more: Reality check: Is it safe to use an expired EpiPen in the event of anaphylaxis? The students took samples of epinephrine, the active ingredient in EpiPens, and put them in tiny cubes, which were sent on board a NASA rocket and balloon.Once the cubes returned to Earth, their contents were brought to a lab at the University of Ottawa.There, Mayer and his team made a remarkable discovery: the epinephrine no longer worked, stunning the career chemists.“There is an interaction with the cosmic radiation that comes when you leave the atmosphere,” he explained.In fact, part of the sample became toxic in space.“The epinephrine came back only 87 per cent epinephrine,” explained student Isaiah Falconer.