Hundreds of tiny worms are being flown to the International Space Station (ISS) today as part of a British experiment to understand more about human muscle loss and how to prevent it.
LED by scientists from Nottingham and Exeter University, with hardware designed by Oxford-based Kayser Space, a research team aims to determine the causes of muscle changes during space flight and find ways to mitigate these biological changes.
“Experiments in space push the frontiers of knowledge and provide real-life benefits for the rest of us back on Earth. It is astonishing to think that sending worms into space could improve our health and help us lead longer lives, and I am thrilled that UK researchers are leading this effort,” said Science Minister Amanda Solloway.
The worms, C. elegans, share many of the essential biological characteristics of humans and are affected by biological changes in space, including alterations to muscle and the ability to use energy.
The research will build on an experiment from 2018 and will test new molecular causes of, and potential therapies for muscle loss during space flight.
Dr Bethan Philips, Associate Professor of Clinical, Metabolic and Molecular Physiology, at the School of Medicine at the University of Nottingham, said, “Since the dawn of the space age, there have been concerns that space travel can be harmful to astronauts. We are very excited that this latest mission will enable us to build on the work we have already done to not only further explore what causes muscle loss with spaceflight, but to also look at how to prevent it. This work will have implications not only for astronauts but also for many situations on Earth.”
The experiment is due to launch to the ISS on the SpX-22, a Commercial Resupply Service mission contracted by NASA and flown by SpaceX using a Cargo Dragon 2 from the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida on June 3.
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