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Scientists are Sending Stem Cells Into Space -- Here's Why

Dec 12, 2016 10:26 AM EST
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Scientists Are Sending Stem Cells Into Space -- Here's Why
Stem cells and other items are reportedly being sent to the ISS on a periodic schedule.

(Photo : ESA/Getty Images)

Many people were surprised to find out that scientists are sending stem cells into space. It is known to many that the weightlessness of space can do pretty incredible things to the body. However, scientists are trying to figure out what kind of things near-weightless conditions can do to developing cells. Scientists have sent stem cells in a dish to the ISS so that astronauts can observe and record their findings, perhaps to help the future of mankind.

 According to a report from the Science Magazine, scientists have done numerous research on cells in simulated weightless conditions here on Earth. However, they want to find out if the behavior of cells in these simulations will behave in real conditions in space. Now, stem cell samples are being observed in the International Space Station or ISS.

A study on stem cell-derived heart cells aims to figure out if it would be possible to extend the stay of astronauts in space for longer periods of time and find out the anatomic effects of this microgravity environment. Since weightlessness can cause muscle atrophy, the medical field also believes that there is a possibility of heart muscle atrophy.

According to a report from NASA, many of the stem cells that have been cultured in space still "retained many gene expression markers." However, they do not fully develop into normal cells of the human body. Nevertheless, when these cells are brought back to Earth, they still have the ability to "self-renew." One of their interesting finds is that when the cells are brought back to Earth, these stem cells self-renew at a much slower rate than when they were in space.

The success of this study will provide a deeper understanding of stem cells and could further explore their implications to the body in the event that humans live in non-Earth-like conditions. Not only would it benefit the understanding of the heart when a person is in space, but it will also give a clearer view of how stem cells in the heart behave even while on Earth. This is especially important since heart disease is the leading cause of death in many countries. 

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