A University of Florida researcher is sending human cells into space: Here's why

Dr. Siobhan Malany, a researcher at the University of Florida’s Pharmacy school is breaking barriers – including the sound barrier.

On the next Space X launch, she’s sending up muscle cells on these chips, which go inside self-running labs.

"It’s an extreme environment to try to study those diseases," said Dr. Malany. 

It’s all an effort to study the progression of disease.

"We’re looking at this natural product from the skin of green tomatoes as a possible fix for age-related muscle atrophy, and using the space environment to study human biology," said Dr. Malany

So why send the cells to space?

Dr. Malany points out, astronauts don’t have gravity pushing down on them, working their muscles, so they atrophy really fast. She realized, the Space X rocket could serve as a time machine for her experiment.  

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"So we’ll look at all the gene expression changes to understand if we see something about this disease progression that maybe we can’t see on earth, because obviously aging occurs over many years, and so it might be a faster process in microgravity," she explained. 

Dr. Malany just got data back from a launch in July she’ll be studying.

This latest one is the third experiment and is the last in the series.

The National Institutes of Health has funded nine in total.  NASA has also funded other tissue chip studies to learn more about long-term effects, such as:

"Inflammation, immune response, to really look at chronic responses in these types of tissue-chips, because the idea is, they should be able to be in culture for a very long time," Dr. Siobhan listed. 

Those tissue chips will be on board the CRS-26 Mission. 

That was supposed to take off this past Monday, then was supposed to leave Tuesday, but weather delays forced Space X to move the launch to this Saturday instead.