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Space research with animals

Researchers at Queen’s University Belfast in Northern Ireland, are using zebrafish to understand how humans might be able to safely reach Mars.

On a journey to Mars, astronauts face harsh conditions such as bone wastage and radiation exposure, which scientists believe might be prevented if they hibernate or lower their metabolism.

The team exposed two groups of zebrafish to radiation similar to what would be experienced on the way to Mars, one in a normal state and the other in a hibernation state known as torpor, and found that the fish in torpor experienced far fewer effects of the radiation.

“If humans could replicate a similar model of hibernation we have observed in the zebrafish, it could increase our chances of making humans a spacefaring species,” said lead author Professor Gary Hardiman.

Meanwhile, astronauts at the International Space Station (ISS) are exploring the potential of bio-printing human organs under microgravity using human cells.

The low gravity conditions on the ISS mean that tissues can be grown without a scaffold, which is necessary on Earth to prevent the structures collapsing.

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