A gene-hacking experiment on a group of mice sent up to the International Space Station has provided some exciting results.
This is in terms of the prevention of bone and muscle depletion for astronauts who have to spend long periods in space.
It could also, a bit further down the line, be of benefit to people who are bed or wheelchair-bound with muscular disorders.
The research was conducted by the Jackson Laboratory in Connecticut and led by Dr. Se-Jin Lee. They dispatched 40 young female black mice on a SpaceX rocket to the space station in December.
Reporting on the project, Dr Lee said that 24 of the mice lost up to 18% muscle and bone mass in the weightless conditions, the expected amount.
These 24 were the mice which had not been treated. Of the remaining 16 mice, eight were treated before leaving for the space station, and the other eight were genetically engineered by the astronauts while in space.
Mighty mice stay ripped
The treatment involved blocking the pair of proteins which typically limit muscle mass. That protein is called myostatin.
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All 16 of the gene-edited rodents returned to Earth still sporting the same muscular physiques. They compared favorably to another group of modified mighty mice which had stayed at the NASA Kennedy Space Center.
The 40 mice which arrived back on Earth were all reportedly in good health.
The scientists say they are still years away from potentially using a similar treatment for the benefit of humans.
They are however very optimistic about their findings. They believe there are many potential avenues which can be explored with this gene-mutation. An ’embarrassment of riches’ is how they described the possibilities.