Hundreds of worms travel to the International Space Station in a unique scientific experiment

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Hundreds of microscopic worms blasted off from Florida on Thursday aboard a SpaceX rocket bound for the International Space Station.

The research team behind the project aims to uncover the causes of muscle changes during spaceflight, and work out how to prevent them.

Muscle wasting is known to affect astronauts aboard the International Space Station and poses a major problem for anyone on their future trips to distant planets.

Led by scientists from the Universities of Nottingham and Exeter, the team says the worms, C. elegans, share many biological traits with humans.

Dr Tim Etheridge, Senior Lecturer at Exeter, said: “Worms are probably a very good model for human muscle maintenance. At the molecular level, they are very similar to the human level, and from a specific spaceflight perspective, they offer a lot of practical advantages. They are very small and fast. It’s inexpensive to grow and easy to maintain. It makes a good business with it.”

The CRS-22 mission, conducted in partnership with Elon Musk’s SpaceX and the British Space Agency, was launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral.

Once at the space station, which orbits 250 miles (about 400 km) above Earth, the worms were placed in an incubator for up to six days to study.

The astronauts will monitor the microorganisms for changes in their muscles and ability to store energy.

Oxfordshire-based Kayser Space developed the hardware needed for the experiment.

The worms will be placed in culture bags inside 24 matchbox-sized experiment containers, each containing three culture bags.

The research will build on a similar experiment from 2018, which was looking at how molecular changes in space affect muscle and metabolism. The team will test new molecular causes and potential treatments for muscle loss during spaceflight.

Discovering more about muscle loss in space will expand our understanding of how aging affects our muscles.

This may lead to more effective and new treatments for muscular dystrophy here on Earth.

Source: The Sun

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