Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Gravitational Squash
10 March 2016

Gravitational Squash

Spending time in the low gravity atmosphere of space has a big impact on human health. Muscle atrophy, bone loss, cardiovascular and immune system problems all affect astronauts. Now scientists have developed a microscope to capture living cells experiencing gravity changes. Cells were put under the microscope on board the Zero-G aircraft, used to train astronauts, and on the TEXUS-52 rocket. In parabolic flight, gravity is zero or higher than normal for a few seconds. Here we see a human cancer cell with the cytoskeleton, a framework that allows cells to maintain their shape, in green. Increased gravity squashes the cytoskeleton (right) in comparison to normal gravity (left). The influence of gravity was seen on genes. After a number of exposures to low gravity, cells have increased activity in cytoskeleton-related genes. Studying cells in this way is the first step to understanding how gravity affects human health in space.

Written by Vicky Ware

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