Human Muscle Cells To Be Blasted Into Space
A SpaceX rocket is set to carry human muscle cells into space in an attempt to learn more about the ageing process.
The lab-grown sample was produced by a team of British scientists and is set to be used to observe how and why our muscles lose strength, with the goal of working to prevent age-related muscle wastage.
Astronauts onboard the International Space Station have been observed to lose muscle mass and strength as a result of prolonged periods of weightlessness, in a similar way to how muscles weaken as we grow older, making space the ideal place to observe this process in action.
The muscle samples have been placed into micro-3D printers, each the size of a pencil sharpener, and will be electronically stimulated to force them to contract, allowing scientists to monitor how they behave in zero-gravity.
Set to launch from the Kennedy Space Centre on Tuesday, December 21, the samples will spend around a month onboard the ISS before being returned to Earth for further observation.
The Times report that the experiment, led by researchers at Liverpool University and funded by the UK Space Agency, is only the second UK-led scientific mission to the ISS since the station’s launch two decades ago.
In a statement, researcher Malcolm Jackson 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.
This development work represents an exciting innovation that could have a wider application in the future.
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