Research into ageing set to blast into space. Scientists are aiming to solve the puzzle of why muscles get weaker with age.
The UK Space Agency is funding research by scientists at the University of Liverpool. The scientists hope to determine why muscles get weaker as we age.
Astronauts in space get weaker due to the lack of gravity. When they return to earth their muscles recover though. Experts are set to study how muscle tissue responds to zero gravity in the hopes that this will give insights into how we age and how to prevent it.
Science Minister George Freeman said: “As we get older, our bones and muscles get weaker, but scientists don’t fully understand how this happens.
“The research of our scientist astronauts like Tim Peake on muscle loss in the microgravity of space is helping identify potential cures for musculoskeletal disease, which causes agony to millions and costs the NHS billions.
“By harnessing the unique environment of the International Space Station our pioneering scientists could help us all live healthier, stronger lives.”
According to the government: “This new experiment, called MicroAge, will take human muscle cells, the size of a grain of rice, that are grown in a lab and carefully put them into small 3D-printed holders the size of a pencil sharpener.
“Once in space, these will be electrically stimulated to induce contractions in the muscle tissue, and the scientists will look closely to see what happens.”
Professor Malcolm Jackson from the University of Liverpool commented on the ageing process and said: “Ageing is one of the greatest challenges of the 21st century and we will learn a great deal about how muscle responds to microgravity and ageing from the data we obtain from this study.
“The team has had to work extremely hard over the last three years to overcome the many challenges of sending our science into space. For example, the electronic equipment necessary to undertake these studies usually fills a large desk but we have managed to shrink this to the size of a pack of cards. This development work on automated and miniaturised systems represents an exciting innovation that could have a wider application in the future.”
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