Thursday, 28 February 2013

Stem cells taken to the space

When the SpaceX Dragon launches next week (March 1) its cargo will contain, among other interesting things, frozen mouse embryonic stem cells, that will be used in a study examining the effects of long space voyages. Takashi Morita from the Osaka City University and his team are the main brains behind the experiment.

It is a known fact that staying in space for long periods of time has negative effects on someones health mainly because of the low gravity and space radiation exposure. The main idea behind the experiment is to expose the mouse embryonic stem cells (ESCs) to space conditions for a time period that is way longer than the average mouse life expectancy (2 years). The cells will stay in space for three years, in the International Space Station, and will then be returned back to earth to be injected into embryos, which in turn will be implanted in female mice, in hopes to create new mice from them.

Image of the Falcon 9 rocket
The Falcon 9 rocket, used for launching Space XDragon

Purpose of the study is to examine the health of the newborn mice and to observe for any DNA mutations, hopefully giving some insight on how space radiation affects the human body. The study will also examine the offspring of the "space" mice to see how defects, if any, are passed to the next generation . The researchers believe that the findings may allow them to develop new methods for protecting space travellers in long space trips.

SpaceX Dragon is a partially reusable spacecraft developed by SpaceX, an American private space transportation company. The spacecraft is launched with the help of SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

Video about the SpaceX Dragon

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