Worms on ISS mission reproduce in space

November 30th, 2011 - 7:21 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Nov 30 (IANS) British researchers sent a type of worm that shares 20,000 genes with humans to the International Space Station (ISS) to test how they deal with space travel, and were surprised to find they have reproduced while in orbit.

The worms — Caenorhabditis elegans — remained healthy throughout the six-month ISS mission and produced 24 generations of offspring while in orbit, the Daily Mail reported.

The worm’s muscles and nervous system also work in a way similar to humans’.

The researchers from the University of Nottingham carried out the experiment to understand how astronauts could be affected by long journeys, like a two-year trip to Mars.

When the worms came back to Earth, the scientists found they showed normal development, feeding patterns as well as the capacity to reproduce.

The research could also help understand more about diseases like muscular dystrophy, a muscle-wasting condition.

Space travel in zero-gravity condition can cause muscle to waste in astronauts, as it reportedly reduces the level of protein myosin which keeps humans strong.

Nathaniel Szewczyk, who led the study, said worms could be successfully used as guinea pigs to test conditions on Mars.

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