Worms In Space 2.0
This new Orion’s Quest mission supports the work of Dr. Siva Vanapalli at Texas Tech University. Dr. Vanapalli’s research, being conducted onboard the International Space Station, uses the microgravity environment of space and the tiny round worm Caenorhabditis elegans to better understand muscle weakening that astronauts can experience during long duration space flights as well as search for new treatments for serious muscle disorders on Earth.
Students engage in authentic International Space Station National Laboratory sponsored research as they learn to use NIH developed software in reviewing proprietary videos from both the ground and flight experiments.
Muscle strength is a functional measure of quality of life in humans. Declines in muscle strength are manifested in diseases as well as during inactivity, aging, and space travel. This research named Micro-16 taking place on the International Space Station is designed to measure muscle strength in multiple generations of C. elegans nematode worms, including animals reared in space. Humans lose strength during long-duration space missions and scientists want to better understand the biological changes caused by microgravity. In this experiment a new device, called NemaFlex, is introduced to measure the worms’ muscle forces continuously based on pillar deflection as the C. elegans nematode crawls through a forest of tiny pillars. Principle Investigator Dr. Siva Vanapalli commented,“If we do observe that our device is able to record these changes in strength, that opens up tremendous opportunities in conducting experiments on different drugs and figuring out how to maintain and improve the health of astronauts.
Participating students will learn to use unique software in their photo and video analysis, and their feedback will provide support for the work of Dr. Vanapalli and his team.