20 mice flew to the ISS. NASA is studying the effects of a long stay in space

20 mice flew to ISS. NASA is studying the effects of a long stay in space

On Friday, SpaceX sent another resupply mission to the International Space Station (ISS). On board the rocket were 20 exceptional passengers. These are the mice that will be the subject of a study to determine how being in space affects diurnal rhythms and the microbiome.

The experiment is being conducted by a neuroscientistów of Northwestern University – Fred Turek and Martha Vitaterna with coóCollaboration with NASA scientists. 10 of the 20 mice sent to space will spend 30 days there, the others will stay on the station for 90 days. – 90 days may not seem like a long time for humans, but for mice it is – Vitaterna said, explaining that mice respond faster to the effects of being in space than humans.

Scientists want to in this wayób to see how being in space affects the circadian rhythms of mice – biological processes that occur in 24-hour cycles. Researchers will also determine how the state of microgravity will affect rórodent physiological processes and on their microbiome – bacteria and other microorganisms living in the mice’s bodies.

A control group of rodent siblings remained in Earth’s laboratories, whichóre flown into space. 20 mice on Earth will live inside a NASA simulator mimicking conditions thatóhe mice on the International Space Station undergo, in addition to the lack of gravity, of course. Another control group will live under normal laboratory conditions.

Every two weeks, astronauts on the ISS and scientists on Earth, will take prób fecal samples from all the mice to cfóto know them with each other. They will róalso monitor how much the mice’s bodies change in space relative to their siblings on Earth, using a special mass-measuring device thatóre does not rely on gravity.

The mice taking part in the study, zaróboth control groups on Earth and rodents in space will be continuously monitored to track changes in their diurnal cycle.

Researchers will also check the bone density of animals. One of the first recorded effects of theóas a side effect of being in space is the weakening of bone and muscle.

In 2014, Turek and other researchers at Northwestern University demonstrated that the interstitialóprice rhythmóin the diurnal can also interfereócić microbiome. Circadian rhythms – innate 24-hour cycles in living organisms – affect most biological functions. Molecular, metabolic reactions, comórk, hormonal, stress and immune processes are regulated by our internal "clock".

– It is important to understand howób subróThat the cosmic can affect the circadian system, since it coordinates so many processesóin biological. The key to adaptation may be the organism’s ability to maintain harmony between systems – noted Vitaterna.

It’s a similar mission to a study conducted by NASA on twins, with which theyórych one spent a year on the ISS, and the other spent that time on Earth. The project began in 2015 and involved astronauts Scott and Mark Kelly. For a year, the brothers were regularly subjected to the same medical tests. This gave NASA the chance to porównania resultóIn Scott with Mark’s results, whichóry is a genetic copy of him.

The first results of the study showed that Scott’s telomeres lengthened while in space. Telomeres are the final fragment of a chromosome, whichórego’s function is to protect it from damage during copying. With each copy, telomeres become krómore. Under normal conditions, telomeres shorten with age, but after a year in space, Scott’s telomeres have clearly grown. Researchers believe that the longer a person’s telomeres are, the more likely he or she is to avoid the most unpleasant effects of theóin aging and will become później. For more on this topic, see First results of space testóat NASA on the twins.

Space habitat of rodents, photo. NASA

Further analysis resultóin the Kelly brothers brought further revelations. Scientists have noticed changes in the expression of about 7 percent of the. geneóIn Scott controlling functions related to the immune system response, the process of bone formation, DNA repair and the response to persistent hypoxia in the body. For more on this topic, see text: NASA tests on twins. A year in orbit has changed the operation of the geneów.

– Our study is analogous to NASA’s study on twins, but we will be working with 10 twins from dwóchómice families – said Turek. – Since we expect that the subró¿ to Mars and back will take several years, we need to determine how toób microbiomes can be altered under microgratification conditions in a long time frame. Lack of rówbalance in the microbiome has been linked to many diseases, from obesity and diabetes to dementia – added.

Turek and VItaterna strictly coóhe researchers are working with NASA and other scientists still analyzing the Kelly brothers’ experiment. In this wayób want to get a more accurate picture of what being in space for a long time does to the body. – What we learn will help us better protect astronaut healthów – said Turek.

Turek and Vitaterna acknowledged the findings of the twinów have left several problemsóin unanswered, and it is the mice that are to remedy this. Scott Kelly’s gut bacteria, for example, whichóry spent a year in space, have changed, but scientists are not sure how the relationship ródietary differences. The mice will have much stricter laboratory controls on what they eat than the Kelly brothers did.

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