Exploring The Beauty Of Aerospace Medicine With Smith Johnston

The Most Important Conversations | Smith Johnston | Aerospace Medicine

Space is among the most hostile and unpredictable environments to explore and work in. Aerospace medicine assures the safety of astronauts and pilots, allowing them to accomplish tasks flawlessly. On a much larger scale, these practices can also be applied in our everyday lifestyle. Chad Lefevre and September Dohrmann chat with Smith Johnston, NASA Retired Medical Officer and Former Chief Medical Officer and Lead Flight Surgeon for Axiom Space, Inc. Smith talks all about his work in aerospace medicine, particularly the benefits of performing genetic testing on astronauts. They also discuss how AI is being incorporated into pathology, the impact of combining high-tech preventative measures with holistic approaches, and the effects of treating aging as a disease.

Watch the episode here

Listen to the podcast here

Exploring The Beauty Of Aerospace Medicine With Smith Johnston

In this episode, we are blessed to have with us Smith Johnston, who served as Medical Officer and Operational Flight Surgeon for NASA’s Medical Operations for a little over 30 years. He retired in 2019. Smith, it’s such a joy to have you on the program. I’m so excited to be able to talk about health and wellness-related topics, but from the perspective of space, which as everyone knows now is a hot topic.

It’s so interesting that when I was growing up, there were Star Wars and all these movies. Space was a big thing. A few years prior to that was the moon landing and a lot of the exploration that NASA was doing. Also, there seemed to be this period, at least from a layman’s perspective, where there wasn’t a lot going on with NASA in terms of space exploration and stuff, the way that thought that it was going to go after we had landed on the moon and we thought that there was going to be this expansive period.

Now, all of a sudden it’s back up there again with everything. With all these different private launches that are going on around the world, space exploration has come back into the limelight. You were sharing with me to kind of move into your background that space is among the most hostile environments, if not the most hostile environment on the human body. Tell us a little bit about your background from a medical standpoint in terms of what you’ve done in your career and then we’ll transition into a dialogue and a conversation about space and its impact on the body and what we can learn from that.

The Most Important Conversations | Smith Johnston | Aerospace Medicine

Looking Back And Space Station

Also, how we can apply some of the things that we’re learning about the human body through the understanding, the framework, or the lens of space exploration that might create some pretty interesting advancements for us here on planet Earth. Let’s start with a little bit of your background with NASA and all of that good stuff.

First of all, thanks so much for you and September putting this together and inviting me to this show. I’m honored to be here. My Background was I grew up here in Georgia and I went to school at Emory University. I went to medical school there as an undergraduate and then I decided to take a year out of med school. I took a couple of years out afterward and traveled the country.

I was fortunate that I was able to make a decent living at playing music and that was sort of the only time I felt I could go and do this and get it out of my system. It was because until I retired now, that’s what I wanted to do full-time anyway. I got to see the country and I got to interview in all different aspects. I was interested in everything like emergency medicine, surgery, OB-GYN, and pediatrics.

One of my mentors said the thing that’s going to get you going, you’re always going to be inspired by amazing things that happen in medicine, but the things that are going to get you going sometimes are things that piss you off. Those are things like preventive medicine and end-of-life care medicine. I had a chance while I was traveling and I saw this thing called aerospace medicine. I planned to be a pilot if things didn’t work out with medical school so I said, “What is this? I get to take care of pilots so therefore I get to fly. You’re taking care of really healthy people.”

That’s what occupational medicine and aerospace medicine is. I’m just fortunate enough that my patients happen to be astronauts and some of the best pilots in the world. I interviewed with the Air Force and the Navy. I kept looking around the country and found this program in Dayton, Ohio. I could do a combined program through NASA and that’s who I wanted to work for. I got a Master’s in Public Health. Also, I did internal medicine and then Aerospace Medicine at Wright-Patt Air Base in Dayton, Ohio. I was there for seven years off and on.

I then went to work at NASA at Johnson Space Center. Johnson Space Center is where the astronauts lived. I was there and then I retired on December 19th and then I worked for a commercial company. I got to work for NASA all my career and my career, as you were saying, there’s a lull. What they were doing was building the International Space Station, which is the most incredible, biggest module built anywhere. It’s $150 billion to have built it and it’s an incredible research facility.

Now commercially, the company I used to work with and still consult with is Axiom Space. We’re trying to build a commercial space station on the front of that station so when the International Space Station wears out as Skylab did, the Russians have built five or six space stations. When they go off and burn up in the atmosphere, then that station will be a commercial space station. Why commercial?

For people to come and go, it costs a little bit. It’s around $65 million for a seat but it was costing us more than that when the shuttle went away and we were using the Soyuz. It got up to $95 million so we’re trying to get those prices down. However, the big thing is to take very healthy people and put them in very unique environments. Also, being in outer space is very unique. It’s an accelerated state of aging.

You have ten times the radiation because you’re closer to the sun and the farther we go out from the earth, the less we’re protected by the Van Allen belts. The Earth is going 1,000 miles an hour right now, and we have an iron core that makes a magnetic force field that keeps us from getting pickled from solar flares when they occur. However, the closer you get outside that Val Van Allen belt, and the closer you get to the sun, the moon is 234,000 miles from here. Mars could be 30, 40, or 60 million miles away depending. Those are two big leaps.

NASA is putting all its energy now after building the space station into building another space station around the moon, and then they’re going to put their money into the Orion program to go to the moon and colonize the moon in a similar way we did the South Pole. That’s one of the models we use. Let’s go back to the reason. What we were talking about is you have ten times the radiation and ten times the bone loss because you’re floating. You have essentially ten times the carbon dioxide and I would tell you, volatile organic compounds that are in a closed-loop environment. We can’t scrub the carbon dioxide.

That carbon dioxide has an effect on your blood flow to your brain. Think about it. Fifteen percent of your blood is in your feet right now. When you’re in space and you’re weightless, it goes to your head. If you’re breathing all that carbon dioxide, that’s a potent cerebral vasodilator. We have problems with head congestion and then bone loss. We have to have them exercise all the time, and they get two and a half hours every day dedicated to setting up and exercising to keep those bones and the muscles strong because you’re floating.

You’re also traveling at Mach 25 or 17,500 miles an hour so you see a sunrise and sunset every 45 minutes. If you happen to go look to the cupula to see the windows, a sunrise, and you get all that blue light right before you’re trying to go to bed, that totally smashes your melatonin and disrupts your circadian rhythm. Circadian rhythms and dyssynchrony are something we work with all the time. Also, fatigue management.

In fact, while I was at NASA when I got there in 1990, I worked for a private contractor and then I got a job in ’94. My job was to build the emergency medical system for the space station with a ton of great people. I was just one person on there but we had to go prove that you could do it. We have a defibrillator and a ventilator. We worry about doing a spacewalk and getting electrocution or taking an orbital debris hit that’s going 17,000 miles an hour in the opposite directions. They’ve had them hit the windows and the Soyuz with a leak here. We get concerned about that.

If you took a ding to your spacesuit, you’d have to try to get in and take care of somebody or if they went into a dysrhythmia from electric shock from onboard the station or there was a fire, we have to have the ability to intubate, defibrillate, and do all those things. As we built the space station and learned to live for years, think about it. Since 2000, the first elements went up in 1998. We’ve had a human presence in orbit that whole time. Also, taking care of those folks to make sure they don’t have the bone loss and the inflammation caused by this radiation. One of the talks I like to give is about space medicine and terrestrial applications for human health, performance, and longevity.

Again, if you’re putting these astronauts who are very healthy, capable people, and that’s what occupational aerospace medicine is. You take healthy people and put them in a funky and unique environment. It takes them a while to get their vestibular system coordinated and to settle in. They’re also in an isolated format. We also have a team of psychologists and psychiatrists that help us with the families with the isolation and the training. It’s a tough job. These astronauts, it’s a real privilege to work with them over the years.

I have retired from NASA, but I still am on their alumni and I’m still on many advisory boards in the adjunct clinical faculty at the University of Texas Medical Branch, which is where we train residents to be aerospace medicine physicians. Also, we train the polar medicine folks too. There are a lot of analog populations that we’d look at. I’m throwing a lot of stuff out here, Chad. Just tell me. You can tell that I like to talk and you go, “Calm down,” and September, keep us together.

I love it. I’m letting you just set the context and based on your introduction of the complexities around all of this, I’m left with this thought that we take a lot for granted in terms of our health and well-being and its relationship to the environment and the atmosphere that is planet earth, nature. We take so much for granted.

The Most Important Conversations | Smith Johnston | Aerospace Medicine

We do. Why are we going to space? It’s to learn about our environment so that we can take care of the most precious thing that we live on, and that’s planet Earth. We’re kind of mucking that up. We’ve had five major extinctions since the 13.5, 14, or 15 billion years we’ve been here. If we don’t take care of things, every 100,000 years, we get a little 12,000 or 20,000 blip of global warming. It has to do with the orbit of the earth around the sun becoming more elliptical. The axis of the earth and the direction switches.

All those add up, and then we get this little global warming blip and we should be cooling now. The problem is the carbon dioxide as we do this has done. It’s up here. If we go too quickly and we melt too quickly, then all those methane pockets underneath the ice caps release, and then we greenhouse gas our place. That’s the thing we’ve got to make a dent and we’ve got to start making a dent soon. That’s why we’re up there to help take care of the earth and not only monitor it.

Now, we monitor everything that goes on in our body pretty much but from the Space Station, it’s an orbital observation tool for looking at how the different changes in our atmosphere when we go into space, which is space is considered 100 kilometers or 62 miles. However, watching how the earth breathes, how the oceans change, and how we monitor the earth is a huge part of what we do just like we’ve got to be monitoring those astronauts to make sure they’re not losing 10% or 20% of their bone mass.

The good news is what we’ve learned is you can lose that and the human body is so adaptable. We used to think that once we burned brain cells that was it. We now know we can regenerate brain cells. There are so many exciting things that are happening within medicine and when we’re able to put people in this advanced state of aging and see if we make a difference. Just like all of the NASA spinoffs that are out there, that’s what we’re here for. That’s something that has been my joy.

For the last 4 or 5 years I was at NASA, I ran the flight medicine clinic. One of the great joys I had was not only taking care of the day-to-day care of the astronauts but also the retired astronauts. We have 36 astronauts now in their 80s and 90s with all this incredible data on them from cholesterol numbers to strength. We’re starting to be able to do genetic testing on our astronauts. That’s something that’s big. It’s about 7% to 10% for any of us reading this are our genetics and the rest, are epigenetics.

It’s 7% to 10%.

I used to say about 20% are genes and the latest things as far as making effect. It’s how your genes react to certain foods. You can eat certain foods. I can’t. It’s individualizing. That’s where medicine’s going and that’s what we’ve always done with the astronauts with precision medicine. You’re taking an individual in this unique environment with this set of tools, nutrition, and medications to get them through this 6-month to the 1-year ordeal of being up in, up in space, which is when things break, we’ve got to fix them and things happen on the ground. We’ve had people getting car accidents. We’ve had a lot of interesting psychological issues that go on like we all have every day with all our families.

Holistic Meets Science

I have a couple of questions on this, and then September, I want to invite you in on the holistic side of this conversation, which I’m going to tee up for a moment. Would you say that we are in a transformative period of medicine right now where we created sort of an industrialized medical system that I think is still what most people think of when they understand Western medicine? However, the advancements that space exploration is teaching us in terms of the impact on the body, haven’t trickled their way through the medical system yet.

There is a two-part question. There’s what we’re learning from space, which is your world, so to speak, pun intended. That’s where you spend your time. I’m also observing, and I’m wondering what you think about this, that there’s this push to go back towards a more natural way of doing medicine, of building, and the types of supplements or medications.

I have a friend who’s a scientist who worked with a very large pharmaceutical company as one of their chief science folks. He’s designed and built over 50 cancer medications over the years. He left this company because he said he believes that pharmaceutical companies need to start moving more towards a more natural approach to how they’re building medications and the impact that they’re having on the body. He thinks it’s possible to get efficacy with a more holistic meets science and brings these two worlds together. What are your thoughts on some of that?

I totally agree, and let’s take that a step further. Every time we eat, food is medicine. It’s your fuel. I think the thing with genetic testing, not only can we find what our strengths and weaknesses are, but now we can target diseases and we can target foods. I know which foods I should avoid because they gin up my immunologic system to fight them. Instead of breaking out in a rash, they take care of it but it’s spending immunologic capital to deal with food that maybe it’s not as bad as giving you celiac disease or something like that.

However, you might have allergies you don’t know about like casein that’s in cow’s milk versus goat’s milk. There are differences and differences in peanuts, different legumes, and things for different people. It’s being able to individualize care for you and use foods to do it so you don’t get to the point where you have an organ that fails or you have a blood vessel that clots and all of a sudden, you’ve got to go to a cardiologist.

If that blood vessel has clogged up in your heart, then that means you’ve got blood vessels clogging up everywhere in your brain, in your kidneys, or your gut. It’s being able to find those genetic strengths. You use them to your benefit and those weaknesses and mitigate those through diet, exercise, strength, and sleep. Every one of those things I mentioned has a linear relationship with longevity. Also, not only just longevity, but it’s quality of life. We call lifespan, to have a great lifespan. We all want to live. Right now the record I think is 122, to get there and go to sleep and not wake up. That’s how we’re going to go.

Now, with the ability to use stem cells, individualized precision medicine, but also with some stem cell therapy and now, engineering the ability to fix things genetically in our bodies with CRISPR and other things. They’re taking care of sickle cell disease, which is a horrible disease. There are points to make and I work with a group called the Fountain Life. They’re in Orlando. I think that’s Peter Diamandis, Tony Robbins, and Bob Hariri.

I’ve got to hear Peter speak, but they are coming up with this individualized precision care. Helen Messier is our Chief Medical Officer and Chief Science Officer. She is one of the smartest people I have ever met. Everyone I’ve met there is brilliant. They’re able to do like we could do with astronaut physicals. You can’t go spend $26,000 to do an astronaut physical on everybody but we’re able with new technologies and new scanners to now get that.

I think we can get that down between $6,000 and $10,000 to be able to do an entire genomic sequencing, full-body MRIs, bone scans, and AI programs of brain and heart scans. You can also find things early. I think they had over 1,200 cases they reported on. We did a thing on astronaut longevity at the Rice University Baker Institute on Astronaut Longevity. They spoke, and 14% of people like you and I, walk in with nothing going on in their 40s, 50s, or 30s.

Bill Kapp our CEO says all the time, “70% of what kills you, you don’t know you have, and you don’t want to die of something stupid.” If you can find that and you’ve got a total body image as a benchmark to look at yourself further down the road, now, we can look at DNA methylation and damage. We can see how things are progressing.

70% of what kills you is unknown to you, and you don’t want to die of something stupid.

Back to your point, I was able to find exactly like I was able to go in and find out what my exact zone two level is for exercise. Also, how much exactly weight lifting do I need to do to put on a certain amount of strength? Strength and aerobic capacity, both of them parallel longevity. That’s what we all want to do. Also, I do a whole thing on sleep. We started a fatigue management system at NASA so we could individualize. A sleep medicine for you may not work for somebody else. We could individualize it.

We can also test you to make sure that if you took a sleep medicine and you woke up emergently you could function at a level just as if you woke up and you were in deep sleep from a dream that you can perform. We’ve been able to develop all these kinds of fun mechanisms. One of the groups I worked with came up with a thing called Timeshifter. If you travel a lot, it’s a free download app. If you want to use it, it’s free. If you want to keep using it, it costs something.

It uses what NASA put together with Charles Czeisler, Laura Barger, Erin Flynn, and Steve Lockley out of Brigham. We were able to use light and melatonin. One of the worst times for astronauts is training and flying to Kazakhstan for a launch or flying to Moscow. Also, flying to scuba in Japan. We’ve also got all these folks in the space stations on Greenwich meantime. Every one of the five space agencies has its own mission control so we’ve got to coordinate that 24/7 capability. Also, traveling is something that you can take Timeshifter and you can plug in your airline schedule and it will tell you when to avoid light, when to see light, when to take melatonin, and when to avoid melatonin.

Melatonin is not such a great sleep agent. It works. Your body makes it, but it’s a good chronobiologic. You can use it to help you shift. You can also augment that with very short-acting sleep medications. We’ve been able to do a program with that. That’s my benchmark for psychological well-being how are you sleeping? If think of it, sleep is a third of our lives and with this kind of stupid thing, we can make it without sleep, but it’s dumb and it’s burning up immunologic capital so that we can make it to 120 or 140.

Our telomeres don’t elongate when we’re not getting sleep. It’s not the good kind of stressor we want to put on us. We’re bringing high-tech preventative diagnostic capabilities combined with a push also in a more natural holistic direction. September, what are your thoughts on that? I know you have a deep interest in holistic health and maybe you’ve got a couple of questions for Smith. I’ve got a lot for you that I want to dig into based on what you said.

AI In Pathology

The questions are building up as you keep talking, so it’s like, “Which question am I going to cherry-pick now?” Chad, you just mentioned technology, and I’m curious to see what type of evolutions you’re seeing with AI being incorporated into pathology. Are there any technologies that are being incorporated in the process of diagnosing different diseases and learning more about the body? Are you starting to see AI in that space yet?

I thought you were talking to Chad. I went off on one of my ADHD kind of thing. As far as using imaging and that sort of stuff, then diagnostics and AI, AI is more logarithmic. It’s more than Moore’s curve. It’s going to be so special. First of all, yes. We can use AI programs right now. You can go get us a heart scan and there’s an AI program called Cleerly. You can put it on there. It can take all those different scanners. We used to have scanners. A big scanner, CAT scan, we had 64 little slices or X-rays pushing, and now they’re up to 365 and 700 slicers.

You can go in there and you get it very quickly. Also, you don’t get as much radiation and it would revolutionize mammography. I think we’re going to get away from mammography very soon and go more to MRI and ultrasound technologies and other technologies. The Lake Nona Impact Forum, which I go to every year is an amazing place. They had gals who had invented a bra that you could wear that could do imaging and electromagnetic monitoring so you could do home evaluation.

To be able to find a plaque and again, 70% of what kills you, you don’t know. You can have tons of plaque, but it’s stable plaque but if you have an unstable plaque and it ruptures or if you have a little aneurysm that you haven’t detected that you can get rid of. The other reason for doing total body scans is by the time stage 1 ovarian or pancreatic cancer shows up or stage 2 or 3, you’re done. You don’t have symptoms.

We hear stories all the time, “We happen to be getting a scanner for something else and it showed this up.” I didn’t go back to the 1,200 patients that Bill Kapp presented at our longevity place. Fourteen percent of people who walked in and thought they were completely healthy had a significant medical issue that they had to get followed and it saved about 3% of people who came in who had something really bad that needed fixing.

Another analogy, September that I think you use is that Bill Gates came and spoke with his team at Lake Nona on their AI programs. One of the analogies was you put ten people or you had ten specialists or physicians. They have tumor boards, grand rounds, or specialty boards where you’ve got fascinomas. We can’t figure out what’s going on so we get a group of docs together and you talk it through. You present the patient and try to figure out what’s going on.

With a group that came with Bill who was a pediatric endocrinologist who was a computer science out of Harvard. He says, “They’ll figure it out about 30%, 40%, or 50% of the time, and then we’ll go back and get other tests. In the AI programs, if you put all 30 or 10 people in a room, if you feed them that information, you’ve just blinked all of those heads together so everybody can be in everybody’s head. You’ve got the same brain power being instantly connected by these giant mainframe computers.

They can go out and have their search engines and they’ve also been trained by humans how to notice that you ate this food and your body makes these proteins. These proteins could give you diabetes, but you could find out way before you got symptomatic or way before you had organ damage that this is what’s going on and change that. That’s the whole thing with precision and individualized care.

If you use the bell-shaped curve and this treatment works for the bell-shaped curve, that could be horrible for the 15 or 15. It could be the worst medicine to give them. Back with the naturopathic stuff with medications, I’ve had the good fortune to work with some companies helping design some medications. Most of the tools we use come from the rainforest and plants. Also, being able to find those plants that work best for you or those medications.

Plants aren’t stupid. There are some plants that if you eat them, you’re going to get sick. They evolve like all of us but finding the right plant, the right nutraceutical, the right medication for you or for an individual, now you can do that with your genetics. Without having to put a probe in anything, you can just monitor with an infrared light what your glucose level is. It’s exciting.

Again, know your strengths and weaknesses. Don’t get hit by a truck. I used to tell my astronauts that one of the best things you could do in Texas or the most important things you can do going out the day is when the light turns green, don’t go look on either side because how many times we had people run lights?

I’m in Florida, so it’s quite often.

One of my talks was about guys versus gals or something. It’s two buddies. I wonder if this bulletproof mask or vest still works. I was like, “Let’s see,” and it didn’t. There are some Darwinian things in there.

Frequency medicine And Other Innovations

I’m curious to know about your experience dealing with frequency medicine. My father was a naturopath and he was into studying all kinds of learning about fingernails, what it’s telling us about the body, the ideology, and things like that. Also, there were Rife machines that utilized frequency as healing. What are your thoughts on all of that? Have you engaged in that type of technology?

The Most Important Conversations | Smith Johnston | Aerospace Medicine

Of course. Vagal stimulation or just slowing down your heart rate is one of the best things you can do. We were talking the other day. That’s why before taking a deep breath and taking a pause even say a blessing, if that’s what you want to do. It slows down your sympathetic system. You don’t want to eat as much or as fast. Every medicine out there has come from some plant, some chemical that we’ve had.

It’s something in our universe. It sounds like you encompass a lot of different technologies in your body of work. There’s not just one lane that you stay in and I think that’s fascinating that you have to study so many different types of medicine and practices.

There’s not an area of medicine that’s not impacted. Your eyeballs are different and your vision is different. Also, your neurovestibular system. We have three little areas back here so when we turn our head, fluid pushes against hair, and that tells us in these directions where we are. It takes a while for that because now everything is floating so things are different.

It’s like getting your sea legs. When you’ve been on a cruise for a long time, you have to get your land legs. In landing, coming back to one gravity. Zero Gravity is an amazing place to study protein crystals, fiberoptics, stem cells, and in fact, medications. We want to have manufacturing plants up in orbit so you can make something so pure and then you can come back 3D printing in microgravity so you can print organs and that sort of thing.

That’s what Axiom and others do. I’m sure there are other commercial Space station companies trying to build their space station. The other thing that AI will help us with is communication. Being able to communicate faster. What do we do now? Siri, or whomever you use can find out anything. You can sit there hands-free and have someone called and heads-up display. Holoportation, one of my buddies is really into that. We have Princess Leah now and you can holoport 3D images. Now with the new phones with the three cameras, you can do some pretty impressive 3D imaging capabilities with the new VR.

AI allows for faster communication. You can even send messages hands-free thanks to this innovation.

One of the things that I think we don’t even know is what we don’t know yet, and I’m wondering if you have some insight on this. First of all, I’m taking the premise that NASA as an organization is far and away more advanced than a lot of organizations. There are probably some other companies that are playing at their level as well. You’ve had the privilege and the opportunity to be exposed to some pretty interesting technologies that are coming down the pipeline, so to speak, that will eventually be available to more and more people.

Quantum Computing And Stem Cells

I know that’s one of the things you and I have been talking about with the TMIC Recreation Center Project and the opportunity to create a wellness center as part of our initiative that brings some of these technologies. What I was just going to get to is I don’t think we even know what we don’t know yet about the impact that quantum computing is going to have on our understanding of medicine and genetics. You combine that with CRISPR and some of the other stuff going on, but at a quantum level, I do believe we’re on the precipice of curing diseases and things like cancer. It’s because we just don’t have the computing power to be able to understand how these different cancers will mutate but with quantum computing, we can. What are your thoughts on that?

Exactly. We will get cancer pretty soon. Cancer is now an aberrant cell and you program your immunologic systems to go in there and make smart bombs. They’re getting rid of leukemia just by programming a smart bomb with a killer T-cell to go in. For longevity and repair, there are a lot of creatures out there that live hundreds and hundreds of years like certain whales and sharks. Why can’t we do that? Why in evolution have we gotten to the point where we stop dividing?

I think some of the promising work with stem cells, with autologous and also donating stem cells. Having my old stem cells commingle with young stem cells and the young ones upregulate our old ones so they work better. Our old ones kind of talk to the young ones and go, “This is where I’m having trouble with inflammation.” Back to the TMIC and putting that together there is bringing people together with far-reaching ideas and being able to put programs together where we can disseminate medical information so quickly and we can screen people so efficiently is where we want to go.

However, for these stem cells to upregulate, and for me, the most important inflammatory part in our bodies, most people use stem cells. We use them all the time for joints that have gotten beaten up and now they’re healing Achilles rupture tears by using your own stem cells and using donor stem cells also. Now, you can have those things upregulate.

The most important inflammatory parts in our body can be treated with stem cells once they get beaten up.

When I was saying inflammation, a lot of people want to go get their joints fixed, but I would tell you the most important thing, again, back to blood flow is your arterial system. You’re supplying blood to your brain so it takes the garbage when you’re sleeping and you’re unclogging your brain. You’re taking those lymphatic organs, which you’ve just known about for about a decade now that we’re even in our brain that they are taking those tau and amyloid products and getting rid of them.

With quantum computing, I think a lot of diseases are going to start to get handled pretty quickly.

It is, and the point I was getting to is age is a disease. That was my point. Also, the aging process. They’ve increased my life 4 to 5 times with stem. We’re not a mouse, but we’re pretty similar. They’re doing studies on large animals. A lot of us have signed up. A lot of people are going and having stem cell therapy, not only on their joints but throughout their entire bodies through IV stem cell therapy.

Age Reversal And Environmental Toxins

Have you followed the work of Dr. David Sinclair out of Harvard?

Yes, I have.

I had the opportunity to tour. He toured me around his lab and we went to dinner back in 2016 or 2017. At that time, he was doing incredible work on age management, age reversal, and this sort of thing. He firmly believes that we are going to be able to age-reverse ourselves very soon here. He has been working on a molecule he was explaining to me that has done it successfully with no side effects in mice. What are your thoughts on age reversal and where we’re headed with that?

No, that’s it. AC-11 I think is the medication. He’s got a great book out. Peter Attia has a great book out. Tony Robbins has Life Force. It’s a great book. Peter Diamandis has a new longevity book out that’s great. It’s where we’re going. It’s treating aging as a disease.

It’s like a pill. He says you’re just going to take a pill. This excites me because of what he was saying back then and I haven’t spoken to him to see how his work has advanced on this. He says that a mouse will typically live around three years. He was explaining to me, and he said, “We can take a mouse that has gray hair, arthritis, cancer cells, and things like that. Also, with this molecule within a certain amount of time, the hair goes brown again. Arthritis disappears. The cancer cells vanish. “

I said, “What do you think? What are we talking about? Is it 20 or 30 years before we can start to,” because he was about to start human trials with it at the time when I was meeting with him. He said, “No. I think within ten years.” He honestly felt that within ten years we’re going to start. I think about this. Am I understanding this right? If I take this pill, I’m in my late ‘40s. I’m still the age that I am, but the disease part that you’re talking about of aging reverses. It’s like, “Am I going to look like I’m 25 again by taking this pill? Is that what we’re talking about here?

I don’t know. The other problem that we have to deal with is we can fortify our body so that we’re getting the right nutrients, we’re in good shape, and we’ve got good blood flow, but we’ve also had this big problem of environmental toxins. It’s bad. Mercury is out there. I don’t mind talking about myself as far as my medical foibles because I have a genetic marker.

The Most Important Conversations | Smith Johnston | Aerospace Medicine

I’ve always done my mercury levels because I work in a mercury environment with JP-4 jet fuel and being around planes and all that kind of stuff. Also, high-performance environments like that. It’s an occupational hazard. There’s mercury, there’s lead, and there’s also the latest thing that I’ve gotten talked about and that’s these forever chemicals. That’s the PFAS.

We are evolving from plastic and plastic can get into your system and muck things up. I don’t know if you’ve heard about senescent cells, but they’re basically our older cells that are not dead yet. They just hang around. They take up space and energy. They clog things up. That’s what these forever plastics are doing. We’ve had ways to test them and I had mine tested, but we now have ways to treat getting these things down. There’s a thing called therapeutic plasma exchange that’s been out for decades that we treat people. The analogy is like getting an oil change. I never thought I needed an oil change.

Fifty-five percent of my blood volume is water. It is fluid. It’s carrying coagulation factors, but it also carries junk. It carries antibodies and immunologic markers. If you were one of a gazillion people who took a vaccine and had a Guillain Barre syndrome, they’re going to go and give you therapeutic plasma exchange. Your body has overreacted to the stimulant and has made more antibodies and they’re affecting other tissues. They can go and clear those things out.

Well, not only will it clear out these antibodies from diseases that you get, but it also clears out mercury. It also clears out cholesterol which I have a problem with not only abundant cholesterol, but I have tightly bound cholesterol and I have a genetic marker Lipo (a), therefore, we used to say when I was training in the ’70s and ’80s that cholesterol needed to be under 300.

Now, it should be under 200 and your LDL, your bad cholesterol should be under 100. If you’ve got lipo, now they’re coming out and saying around 60 to 55, your LDL and your total should be under 150. I just went through this therapeutic plasma exchange. There are dilution effects. We’re not sure what it means yet but my LDL, I take several medications and I’m pretty much vegan-based. I’m a pescatarian, but I’ve got to watch my mercury. Also, because of my genetics, I take chelating pills, and that dropped my mercury. My mercury after I did therapeutic plasma exchange dropped. Also, my LDL which usually runs around 35 was down around seven.

This looks like it may be the way to go. Also, these PFAS chemicals made these chemicals so tightly bound that they are fire retardant. The people we need to help the most are the firefighters because they use the foam and the foam is what we suck down and gets in us. If you chop on a plastic cutting board, you’re going to get 5 or 10 credit cards in your body over the course of the next year or two.

That’s why I only use walnut wood.

I got my bamboo cutting board the other day. This just came out in 2022. They took 300 firefighters whose level was deemed high just like they had a high mercury level. They had a high forever chemical level. They did nothing to a hundred of them. They said to avoid trying to eat plastics, which you can’t do and then they let 100 of them donate their blood every six weeks for a year. They also let another group donate their plasma.

The firefighters who donated their blood had marked levels of decreased PFAS and the people who donated their plasma, which is about twice the volume of plasma dramatically dropped to really low. If it works with just donating your plasma then if you’re doing a plasma exchange, which is exchanging 70% of your plasma, then that could have a marked reduction. It’s just too expensive to do. It has to be democratized. We have to do enough of this stuff so that we can get the word out there.

The other statistic that Bill Kapp presented at our meeting was not only that had a slide of, “If you did this test and you found this, but you also found this entity early versus ten years later, if you found it.” The difference in medical expenditures was much higher and much greater. Once we encourage the insurance companies to get involved, preventive medicine is good.

Sinclair has some studies. I’ve forgotten the numbers, but it’s something like increasing the average age in the country by one year has a $37 trillion impact on the economy. It’s in his book. I probably got that wrong. I read it the other day. I don’t know if that’s a global number or just the US. I think it’s probably globally. Just keeping people who have sharp brains, but their body let them down or they had a clot or they had a stroke, just think about it. You’re functional and your lifespan is good and then you go.

I am so excited about what we’re going to do in Texas with you, your network, and mine. We’ll reach out to David and Mark and some of these guys too. We want to be a piece of the puzzle. We can’t do it all, but we want to be a piece of the puzzle that helps to lower the cost and democratize prevention using some of these new advanced technologies. Some of them are learned through the experience that people like you’ve had working with NASA and space and what we’ve learned from all that.

Also, bringing that down into new treatments and technologies that we can better understand the body from a preventative standpoint. I’m going to take you up on it. As I said, we’ve already discussed this. I’m going to go through all these diagnostic and preventative tests that you and I have been talking about offline. I’m very excited to have that experience.

Let me know. I’d be happy to set it up for you. It’s a great experience and you learn so much about yourself. I’m dyslexic. I need pictures. I’m a spatial guy. When I can see things and I can explain things to people, “You can reverse heart disease, you can reverse aging, you can reverse dementia, or you can treat Parkinson’s now.”

You can facilitate getting the right chemicals whether there are chemicals to help something in your brain grow or it’s a chemical to kill cancer. They’re able to deliver that with functional MRIs, high-frequency ultrasounds, and lasers. Also, now as you said, with the AI and the quantum, it’s going to be mindboggling.

Any final questions or last words from you, September, that you have for Smith?

I hope that we have another opportunity to connect with you again. I’m fascinated by what you do. You did a very cool job. You did some very cool stuff in the world, and I’m fascinated by all of that. There’s just a plethora of questions and different directions that we can take in this conversation. I’m so grateful that you stepped in and showed up. Thank you so much for being here.

Thank you for having me. That’s what we need to do is we got to get the word out to folks that this can be done now. It can do a lot of things now and it’s exciting. We’re going back to the moon so that’s going to be fun too.

Colonizing Mars

I didn’t even get to ask you about your thoughts about whether we should be spending as much time and effort on trying to colonize Mars as we should be saving our own planet.

I think the moon is the first step. Colonizing Mars is going to be so hard. It’s 6 to 8 months to get there. You have to stay on the planet for eighteen months and 6 to 8 months to get back. First, we have to figure out how to take a solar flare. One of the things we propose is every astronaut should donate their stem cells. We should have their stem cells banked so that if they’re on the moon and there’s a solar flare, they still can get down underneath the ground. You’ve got to dig to get under the dirt for protection but if they can’t do that and they get hit by a big solar popping, it takes out a lot of their DNA. Now, you can infuse their stem cells back into them as a treatment. That’s a good way to leave it.

Colonizing Mars requires six to eight months of travel and around 18 months of settlement on the planet. It also requires mankind to figure out first how to handle solar flares before traveling there.

Closing Words

I appreciate you taking the time. This was so enlightening. We are so blessed and grateful to have you. We look forward to working with you on what we’re going to do in Texas. Thank you, everyone, for reading this episode. The Most Important Conversation is about the health we’re dealing with now. We’re going to have a lot more of this coming your way. We hope you enjoyed it. Thanks for tuning in.


Important Links

Love the show? Pay it forward and subscribe, rate, review, and share!

Here’s how >

Join The Most Important Conversations:

More Announcements

Design Summits

Creating the best education system on the planet for our next generation in order for them to think for themselves and to thrive.

Read More


Creating the best education system on the planet for our next generation in order for them to think for themselves and to thrive.

Read More