Tiny human muscle cells will be propelled into space in an experiment that could help people live longer and healthier lives.
The experiment, called MicroAge, is expected to launch tomorrow to the International Space Station (ISS).
The space will be used in the name of understanding what happens to human muscles as people age – and why.
Laboratory-grown human muscle cells, the size of a grain of rice, are contained in 3D printed media the size of a pencil sharpener.
Once in space, they will be electrically stimulated to induce contractions in the muscle tissue.
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Spending time without the effects of gravity can weaken an astronaut’s muscles – just as they do in old age – before recovering when they return to Earth.
Researchers at the University of Liverpool, funded by the British Space Agency, will study what happens to muscle tissue in space and compare the results to what happens on Earth.
They hope this research will help solve the puzzle of why
muscles weaken with age and may be helping to prevent this process in the first place.
As people age, muscles naturally lose mass and strength, which affects how easily people perform everyday tasks.
Loss of muscle strength comes with a host of problems, including an increased risk of falling and longer recovery times from injuries.
Professor Malcolm Jackson, University of Liverpool, said: “Aging is one of the biggest challenges of the 21st century and we will learn a lot about how muscle responds to microgravity and aging from the data. that we get from this study. The team had to work
extremely difficult over the past three years to overcome the many challenges of sending our science into
“For example, the electronic equipment needed to undertake these studies usually fills a large office, but we have managed to reduce it to the size of a deck of cards.
“This development work on automated and miniaturized systems represents an exciting innovation that may have wider application in the future. ”
Kayser Space, based at the Harwell Space Cluster in Oxfordshire, designed and built the scientific equipment to accommodate the muscle cells to ensure they survive potential changes in temperature, vibration and G-force during launch.
MicroAge is scheduled to launch on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 10 a.m. (GMT) tomorrow.
The UK space agency has provided £ 1.2million in funding to the University of Liverpool for the experiment, with its return to Earth scheduled for January 2022, where the cells will undergo further analysis. thorough.
People can keep up to date
progress of the study via a MicroAge application.