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Catchy title right? I wanted to highlight one of the experiments currently set to depart the International Space Station later this weekend. On Sunday, January 5th around 8:45pm, controllers at Mission Control in Houston will remotely release the SpaceX Dragon resupply vehicle that arrived earlier this month. On board the Dragon resupply vehicle will be 3,600 pounds of scientific experiences and cargo heading back to Earth for post flight research. This includes Rodent Research-19 project that has 40 specially bred "Mighty Mice" to help researchers study possible treatments for muscle and bone loss due to disuse. Specifically researchers are looking into the use of a Myostatin Inhibitor to help prevent muscle and bone loss that is often occurs in astronauts on long duration missions. The spin-off for that research would also apply to humans that may suffer muscle and bone loss due to a variety of conditions including long term recovery from injuries (think of someone being in a medically induced coma and unable to exercise their arm and leg muscles. However, this is also a very important issue when you look at long duration missions to Mars or missions to the Moon that has 1/6th the gravity of Earth.
For the Rodent Research-19 mission the mice have been bread to lack the Myostatin and have twice the average muscle mass. During the past four weeks, the mice on the ISS and at a ground-based control facility have been undergoing various treatments to help measure how much muscle and bone loss occurs during the experiment. The mice are expected to splash down off the California coast early Monday.
Image above courtesy of The Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine - https://www.jax.org/miceinspace