Worms help study space travel’s impact on astronautsJune 3rd, 2011 - 7:54 pm ICT by IANS
London, June 3 (IANS) A space flight by millions of microscopic worms could help overcome the numerous threats posed to human health by space travel.
The Caenorhabditis elegans (C. elegans) have also given experts an insight into how to block muscle degradation in the sick and elderly.
The worms from the University of Nottingham, Britain, were flown into space on board space shuttle Atlantis. They spent 11 days in orbit on board the International Space Station more than 200 miles above Earth. Many of C. elegans’ 20,000 genes perform the same functions as those in humans.
Experts in human physiology from the university’s School of Graduate Entry Medicine wanted to study the effectiveness of RNA interference (RNAi), a tried and tested technique which regulates gene expression in diseased tissue, reported the journal Public Library of Science ONE.
Experts also wanted to know whether this technique could be employed to reduce or control the dramatic muscle loss experienced by astronauts during spaceflight, according to a Nottingham statement.
The results have shown that RNAi, which is already the subject of more than a dozen clinical trials to target illnesses ranging from cancer to asthma, functions normally in space flight and could be used as a viable option to treat and control muscle degradation in spaceflight.
Their discovery will not only be of interest to astronauts but will also help people who suffer from muscle wasting caused by illness and old age.
Nathaniel Szewczyk, from School of Graduate Entry Medicine, said: “It was really a quite straight forward experiment. Once the worms were in space the scientists on board the International Space Station treated them with RNAi and then returned them to us for post-flight analysis.
“These results are very exciting as they provide a valuable experimental tool for spaceflight research and clearly demonstrate that RNAi can be used effectively to block proteins which are needed for muscle to shrink,” said Szewczyk.
During the flight a series of experiments were carried out by Japanese scientists on board the station. When the flight samples were returned, the results were analysed by Timothy Etheridge, clinical physiologist, Nottingham.
- Worms on ISS mission reproduce in space - Nov 30, 2011
- Sunita Williams heading back to space again - Jun 23, 2012
- 'Russia can help ISS astronauts with rehabilitation' - Mar 30, 2012
- 'Space mice' may pave way to help keep humans fit in space - Oct 30, 2010
- NASA mulling week-long Mars mission simulation for ISS - Apr 22, 2011
- US private firm aborts launch to space station - May 19, 2012
- Sunita Williams takes off on her second space odyssey - Jul 15, 2012
- First private spacecraft launched to space station - May 22, 2012
- Red wine, vitamins don't really boost longevity - Jul 07, 2010
- How gene defects may contribute to mitochondrial diseases - Sep 25, 2009
- Spacebound bacteria inspire earthly remedies - Mar 22, 2011
- Worms provide insights into human biological clock - Dec 18, 2010
- New crew head for space from same launch pad used by Yuri Gagarin - Apr 05, 2011
- Studying spacebound bacteria may inspire Earthbound remedies - Mar 22, 2011
- Sunita Williams takes fifth spacewalk (Lead) - Aug 31, 2012
Tags: board space shuttle, c elegans, caenorhabditis elegans, diseased tissue, experimental tool, flight analysis, gene expression, graduate entry medicine, human physiology, international space station, microscopic worms, muscle loss, public library of science, rna interference, space shuttle atlantis, spaceflight, study space, szewczyk, university of nottingham, viable option