SpaceX astronauts have embarked on a mission with a unique goal: researching ways to reverse the ageing of the immune system. This endeavour, supported by the ISS National Laboratory, will involve several investigations, notably focusing on tissue chips to delve into liver regeneration and the ageing of the immune system.
In a recent announcement, NASA revealed that a team of four astronauts were set to launch to the International Space Station (ISS) by August 25. Their six-month expedition is dedicated to scientific research aimed at enhancing healthcare options back on Earth.
The launch, originating from the Kennedy Space Center, features NASA’s SpaceX Crew-7 astronauts who will carry out multiple research projects sponsored by the ISS National Lab.
One significant study involves researchers from the University of California San Francisco. They will utilise tissue chip technology to unravel the relationship between liver regeneration and the ageing of the immune system, aiming to discover novel strategies for improving the healing process of the liver.
Tissue chips are miniature devices capable of mimicking human tissue functionality. By leveraging these chips, scientists can investigate age-related liver issues and regeneration, prevalent among the elderly, within a microgravity environment.
Over the course of a month, the researchers from UC San Francisco will explore the link between immune ageing and healing outcomes at an accelerated pace compared to Earth-based studies. This is due to the resemblance between physiological changes induced by space and those encountered during the ageing process.
Interestingly, many of these changes revert or shift after re-entry to Earth, presenting a unique opportunity for a two-way study of the ageing process. This investigation holds the potential to unveil insights into reversing immune ageing, ultimately benefiting life on our home planet.
“Sending these immune chips into space will enable us to simulate the ageing process of the immune system and understand how it affects our body’s ability to repair itself as we grow older.” Sonja Schrepfer, professor of surgery at UCSF and lead of the investigation, gave a statement.
Back in October, SpaceX embarked on their 5th Commercial Crew mission, dedicating six months to space-based research. This included a project aimed at developing a protein-based artificial retina and investigating changes in gut microbes caused by the space environment.
Amid the growing wave of space exploration, concerns about health and safety are gaining prominence.
Enterprises like the Translational Research Institute for Space Health (TRISH) at Baylor College of Medicine are deeply involved in examining health matters in space. Their collaboration with various organisations involves assessing how these insights can be harnessed to enhance human well-being on Earth.
In 2021, TRISH introduced a ground-breaking initiative named EXPAND (Enhancing eXploration Platforms and Analog Definition). This ingenious research platform accumulates flight data and centralises it into a comprehensive database. The primary objective? To scrutinise astronaut health, refine understanding, and foster innovations for terrestrial applications
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