This week, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) Astronaut Norishige Kanai is working with mice that recently arrived onboard the International Space Station (ISS) as part of JAXA’s Mouse Stress Defense experiment. The study is focused on testing strategies to prevent microgravity-induced stresses and cell signaling that lead to bone and muscle loss.
Samples from another rodent investigation focused on muscle loss—ISS National Lab-sponsored Rodent Research (RR)-6—will be coming back on SpaceX CRS-14 when it returns to Earth from the ISS in a few weeks. The RR-6 investigation is aimed at testing an implantable drug delivery system for a drug to treat muscle wasting. This collaboration between the Houston Methodist Research Institute, Novartis, and NanoMedical Systems seeks to develop an implantable device that will safely administer the drug over a long period of time, without patients needing a daily injection, improving quality of life.
Mice and rats have been traveling to space for research since the 1950s. Rodents provide critical insight into not only the effects of spaceflight that impact astronaut health but also effects that mimic human disease on Earth, including those targeting the musculoskeletal and cardiovascular systems, immune function, wound healing, and metabolism.