Research on mice taken to the International space platform (ISS) has found a protein that would help combat ageing and help in the development of medicine to treat age related diseases such as Alzheimer & diabetes.
A joint study by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) & Tohoku University showed that while the mice were in space, they experienced biological changes that are almost like ageing but fast-forwarded, reported the ‘Japan Times’.
According to JAXA, the protein that slow-down a part of the transformation is Nrf2, during a finding that would benefit astronauts during future manned space missions because it will help in the development of treatments for mitigating space travel related health-risks.
For the study, 12 mice were transported to the ISS by a SpaceX Falcon rocket in April 2018, where they spent 31 days.
Due to variety of factors that include additional exposure to radiation, spaceflight triggers physical deterioration almost like the ageing process like loss of bone density. For the study, half mice were genetically engineered to not have Nrf2 while the opposite half were unmodified.
The study showed that of the 2 groups, those without the Nrf2 protein witnessed faster changes almost like those induced by ageing while the other 6 showed less change.
According to the researchers, the mice were gaining weight before the launch but once in space, those without Nrf2 stopped putting on weight. Despite both groups consuming an equivalent amount of food & water.
Medical Biochemistry professor at the Tohoku University Masayuki Yamamoto, one among the study’s authors, noted that the results highlight the importance of the role Nrf2 plays in cushioning the impact of space derived stress.
The researchers feel Nrf2 might be an important agent in deaccelerating ageing on earth, given the similarities between the impacts of old age & the blood transformation noted in the mice that were genetically-modified.