Following a day off on Christmas, the Expedition 64 crew went into the weekend with a variety of space biology to help researchers gain therapeutic insights not possible on Earth.
Long-term exposure to microgravity affects organisms adapted to living on Earth in many ways. That same weightless phenomena also reveals unique physical properties that doctors can use to develop advanced medicines and therapies.
A pair of studies taking place over the weekend explored new treatments for joint injuries and cancer. Saturday’s investigation observed samples of bone, cartilage, and synovium (connective tissue) housed in an artificial gravity chamber for insights into bone loss and joint damage. Sunday’s space research explored space-grown protein crystals, which are higher quality than those created on Earth, and their ability to target cancer cells.
A separate pair of investigations is examining several dozen mice aboard the International Space Station to learn about space-caused impacts to vision and bone tissue. The eyesight study seeks to understand whether the vascular changes created in space can impair visual function. Space radiation and fluid shifts toward the head are also suspected of affecting vision in 40 percent of space residents.
The second experiment is looking at genetic changes that occur in space and how they impact the degeneration/regeneration of bone tissue. Scientists are investigating how microgravity modifies the molecular mechanism of bone formation and cell growth.
The mice live in specialized research habitats on the station and are compared to a similar group of rodents on the ground. Following the completion of the studies, the mice will be returned to Earth inside the SpaceX Cargo Dragon spaceship in January for analysis by scientists in Florida. The results from both experiments may lead to better treatments for conditions affecting humans on and off the Earth.