Top scientist claims that fetal human brain & # 39; will grow BIGGER in space & # 39; – what could make a natural birth impossible with low gravity
- Scientists sent human organoids to the international space station in July
- Aims to study the development of brain cells in low gravity environment
- Chief scientist predicts that the brain will grow larger and faster than on Earth
- Could make delivery more difficult if babies with large brains penetrate the birth canal
- Large brain circumference is also one of the most important biomarkers for autism
Scientists have blown human brain organoids – lumps of brain cells that grow their own neural networks – into space to determine the effects of microgravity on fetal development.
Chief scientist Alysson R. Muotri of the University of California, San Diego, oversaw the four-week experiment to send the brain organoids to the international space station in July.
Muotri predicts that with low gravity the organoids will grow faster and larger than on the earth's surface, which may have future consequences for the hope of a natural birth in a low gravity environment.
& # 39; The progenitor cells will proliferate faster and likely generate a larger organoid, & # 39; Muotri said Massive Science this week.
Chief scientist Alysson R. Muotri (above) of the University of San Diego in California predicts that at low gravity, brain organoids will grow faster and larger than on Earth
In a conversation with DailyMail.com, Muotri clarified that although the ISS experiment ended late last month, it will take some time before he can prove his prediction about larger brains in space.
& # 39; We don't have any data yet, it will take months to analyze everything & he said.
& # 39; The prediction that metal precursors would replicate faster comes from data from previous experiments with other cell types that suggest that micro gravity causes cell proliferation, & # 39; Muotri continued.
Although larger brains may sound good, there is cause for concern when Muotri & # 39; s prediction is born.
If the brain and surrounding skull are too large, babies may not be able to pass through the birth canal during delivery – leading to the possibility that people cannot have natural childbirths in the room.
A large brain circumference is also an important biomarker for autism.
Examples of the brain organoids that Muotri uses in his research can be seen above
The organoids spent four weeks aboard the ISS (above) for the groundbreaking experiment
& # 39; We do not fully understand how cell proliferation can lead to intellectual problems or cognitive disabilities later in life, so this gives us a model to understand that & # 39 ;, Muotri told Massive Science.
The groundbreaking experiment shot 100 brain organoids on July 21 in a orbit aboard a Space X rocket.
& # 39; We will be able to continuously observe the formation of the neural tube, including cell migration, cell-cell interaction, cell division and death. "This will be the first in a series of space flights to help us understand the complexity of brain development, both in weightlessness and on Earth," Muotri said at the time.
& # 39; This type of space experiment has never been done before for any type of stem cell-derived organoids. The technical part of keeping these 3D structures alive in microgravity is a huge challenge, & said Muotri.
The brain organoids traveled in a CubeLab (above) designed and built by Space Tango
The brain organoids traveled in a CubeLab, designed and built by Space Tango, that was used to support continuous cell culture during the mission.
In addition to investigating neural development in microgravity, the researchers hope that the brain organoids will also reveal molecular and cellular changes that alleviate the biological processes of aging and diseases such as Alzheimer's.
If successful, the experiments will help scientists better understand neurological disorders and generate new treatments.
Muotri is recognized as a leader in the field because he used the & # 39; brain-in-a-dish & # 39; approach to provide the first direct experimental evidence that the Zika virus can cause serious birth defects.
WHAT IS THE INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION?
The international space station ISS is a scientific and technical laboratory of $ 100 billion (£ 80 billion) that runs 250 km above the earth.
It has been permanently manned since November 2000 by rotating crews of astronauts and cosmonauts.
Research on board the ISS often requires one or more of the unusual conditions in a low Earth orbit, such as low gravity or oxygen.
ISS studies have researched human subjects, space medicine, life sciences, natural sciences, astronomy and meteorology.
The US space agency Nasa spends around $ 3 billion (£ 2.4 billion) a year on the space station program, a funding level endorsed by the Trump government and Congress.
A commission from the US House of Representatives overseeing NASA has begun investigating whether the program should be extended beyond 2024.
Alternatively, the money could be used to accelerate planned human space initiatives to the moon and Mars.
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