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The space double-whammy: Less gravity, more radiation
Date:2/28/2014

be the first in space to use cultured human fibroblasts, the non-dividing cells that make up most of the human body. Fibroblasts form the framework for organs and tissues and play a critical role in wound healing and other bodily functions.

The investigation is scheduled to launch to the orbital complex aboard SpaceX-3 March 16, 2014. Micro-7 is managed by NASA's Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., and is funded by NASA's Space Biology Program. Bioserve Space Technologies at the University of Colorado, Boulder, Colo. is providing the experiment hardware and implementing the science payload aboard the space station.

Wu will focus on how these cells respond to DNA damage in space by examining changes in a small, non-coding form of RNA known as microRNA, which is known to affect how genes are expressed in cells. The investigation will compare the cells in spaceflight with those on the ground to identify unknown functions of microRNA and the functions they regulate in our bodies. Similarities and differences in the space and Earth data will also improve our knowledge of fundamental biological processes critical for maintaining normal cell function.

In the future, Wu would like to have a controlled radiation source, such as a portable X-ray machine, on the space station to expose cultured cells or small animals to specific doses of radiation in space. Cells or organisms on the ground would be exposed to the same dose, and the DNA repair in both compared. Wu says that may be possible in the near future, perhaps by modifying a bone density scanner or other equipment aboard the space station.

Researchers can use data from Micro-7 in future Earth-based studies to examine whether the cell changes observed during spaceflight are seen in disease states of tissues and organs as well. Ultimately, this may help scientists better understand disease and this type of research could even lead to development of new treatment drugs.

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Contact: Laura Niles
Laura.E.Niles@nasa.gov
281-244-7069
NASA/Johnson Space Center
Source:Eurekalert  

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