You’ve heard of snakes on a plane well now it’s worms on a rocket as today (Thursday 3rd June), hundreds of tiny worms are being flown to the International Space Station (ISS) as part of an experiment to understand more about human muscle loss and how to prevent it.
Funded by the UK Space Agency, a team of scientists led by scientists from Nottingham and Exeter University, with hardware designed by Oxford-based Kayser Space, aims to determine the causes of muscle changes during spaceflight and find ways to mitigate these biological changes.
Discovering more about muscle loss in space will expand our understanding of how ageing affects our muscles; this could lead to more effective therapies and new treatments for muscular dystrophies here on Earth.
Science Minister Amanda Solloway said:
The worms, C. elegans, share many of the essential biological characteristics of humans and are affected by biological changes in space, including alterations to muscle and the ability to use energy.
The research will build on an experiment from 2018 and will test new molecular causes of, and potential therapies for muscle loss during spaceflight.
Libby Jackson, Human Exploration Programme Manager at UK Space Agency, said:
Dr Bethan Philips, Associate Professor of Clinical, Metabolic and Molecular Physiology, at the School of Medicine at the University of Nottingham, said:
Dr Tim Etheridge, Associate Professor at the University of Exeter, said:
Kayser Space, based in Oxfordshire, has developed the hardware for the experiment. The worms will be housed in culture bags inside 24 matchbox-sized experiment containers, each containing three culture bags. Once on board the ISS, these containers will be placed into the incubator in the station’s Columbus Module. The experiment will take place over 5-6 days.
David Zolesi – Kayser Space Managing Director, said:
The experiment is due to launch to the ISS on the SpX-22, a Commercial Resupply Service mission contracted by NASA and flown by SpaceX using a Cargo Dragon 2 from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.