Are space and time regulated by gravity
The code of gravity - how human genes are regulated in space
On June 29, 2018 at 11:42 am EST (5:42 am EST), a Falcon 9 rocket launched on the Dragon spacecraft from the Kennedy Space Center to the International Space Station (ISS). On board are two experiments from Otto von Guericke University Magdeburg on a mission to answer one of the fundamental questions of manned space travel:
The scientists want to find out how human cells adapt to weightlessness and how disorders of the immune and bone systems can be avoided in the future during longer stays in space.
"Long-term missions in space will present people with new and much greater medical challenges," said Prof. Dr. Dr. Oliver Ullrich, professor of space biotechnology at Otto von Guericke University Magdeburg and founder of the Magdeburg working group for research under space and weightless conditions MARS.
“Previous studies by our working group have shown that human cells have an enormous and rapid adaptation potential to changes in the force of gravity. How this adjustment can be explained is completely unknown up to now. This is to be clarified by means of the two experiments that will be carried out during Alexander Gerst's mission 'horizons - Knowledge for Tomorrow'. "
The first experiment, “Gene Control Prime”, examines the relationship between gravity and the regulation of gene function. In the cell nucleus, it can reveal which molecules switch which genes on or off under altered gravity.
The scientists working with Prof. Oliver Ulrich want to use the data obtained to understand how human cells basically perceive gravity and adapt to weightlessness on space flights and how mechanical forces basically affect our genes. For the first time in this experiment, the adaptation to the gravitational force of Mars is being investigated, which can provide important data for manned exploration missions to the planet Mars.
“All experiments in which the effects of mechanical forces are examined are always limited on earth by gravity. In an environment without gravity, we can therefore look much better at the basic mechanisms. Here, space is nothing more and nothing less than an excellent research tool for research on earth, ”said Prof. Ullrich.
The second experiment, FLUMIAS, tests for the first time a high-resolution laser fluorescence microscope developed by Airbus DS on behalf of the German Aerospace Center DLR, with which the structure and molecular processes in human cells can be observed directly. "This enables spatial and temporal insights into the cell changes under the absence of gravity, a revolution compared to the measurements carried out so far only of the final state," says the space biologist.
In both experiments, human phagocytes (macrophages) obtained from donated blood are used as objects of investigation. These cells normally “cleanse” the body of harmful bacteria and dead cells.
“Both experiments follow the concept that, in view of the enormously complex control processes at cell level, the view should be directed towards the entire system in order to at least approximate our understanding to biological reality,” says Prof. Oliver Ullrich. "The systemic approach also enables better risk predictions for manned spaceflight."
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