Mutations in space

During experiments conducted with the use of flatworms at the International Space Station, the researchers observed an unexpected regenerative effect. One of the 15 fragments of the creature sent back into space has returned with two heads. The purpose of the experiment was to test how life in space can affect cell activity. Researchers have decided to do so in microgravity and fluctuations in the magnetic field by sending a group of flatworms to the International Space Station (ISS).

They are closely related to the tapeworm, but are not parasites. They belong to the rotor class and reach a length of up to 20 mm. Their regenerative capabilities have long fascinated scientists. As soon as the conditions are right, these worms can rebuild damaged or even half-body parts. In this way two individuals with the same genetic material are born. Worms can regenerate every piece of their body by the pluripotent stem cells present in their body.

Researchers have sent a set of whole and healthy flat worms to the ISS and amputated fragments of their bodies, from which new individuals would appear in the earth. Scientists sealed worms inside tubes with different ratios of air and water and then watched the animals.

At first glance these little worms do not have much in common with the astronauts on board the ISS. But the experience at ISS offers valuable tips on how life in space can affect the body. This can help scientists understand the impact of space travel on human bodies.

Source: Live Science, photo by Junji Morokuma / Allen Discovery Center at Tufts University

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