NASA studies fruit flies in space


NASA has been using fruit flies to examine how the health of astronauts might be affected by flights to Mars and beyond.


Studies on the flies, at the International Space Station, have shown that artificial gravity may help protect humans against the effects of microgravity (sometimes called zero gravity).


According to NASA, scientists can learn more about a fly’s biology in a shorter amount of time, as the three weeks that they spend in space is roughly equivalent to three decades of human life.


The study reported that as the flies acclimatised to being back on Earth after their trip, the flies that experienced artificial gravity in space aged differently and had ‘less severe challenges’ to the flies that experienced microgravity.


The space agency said that fruit flies are the ‘ideal organism’ for this type of research because of the significant amount of overlap between the cellular and molecular processes of flies and humans.


Dr Siddhita Mhatre, a senior scientist at NASA’s Ames Research Center, California, said: “It is imperative that we understand the impacts of altered gravity on the neurological function.”


“And flies in space, alongside the astronauts, will help to further our efforts in keeping astronauts healthy.”


Fruit flies were the first living creatures intentionally sent into space when they were transported aboard a V2 rocket in February 1947.


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