Eight scientists from the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf are conducting research at NASA in California into the effects of zero gravity on astronauts’ immune systems, according to a UKE press release Wednesday (June 21, 2017). To do so, they are sending stem cells to the International Space Station (ISS) and their research may yet benefit the medical care of the elderly.
“Zero gravity causes various problems for astronauts who have spent longer stints in space. These problems include muscular atrophy or cardio-vascular changes similar to cellular changes in the body during the ageing process,” said Prof. Dr. Sonja Schrepfer, head of the research project. Such changes include deteriorating bone healing, loss of cardio-vascular and neurological abilities and changing immune functions. “Thus zero gravity is a model for ageing,” she added.
Sending stem cells to ISS for four weeks
The research project seeks to determine whether zero gravity changes the body’s stem cells and prevents tissue and organs from regenerating. The scientists are also keen to determine whether these processes can be reversed and become remediable. The stem cells will be sent to ISS for four weeks and will be cultivated and examined for another four weeks on their return to Earth. The UKE scientists are from the fields of medicine, biotechnology, physics and biology. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is putting around USD 2.6 million (EUR 2.3 million) towards the project.
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