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Stem Cells … in Space

Researchers from the University of Zurich sent hundreds of test tubes containing human stem cells to the International Space Station to examine how they are affected by microgravity, the Washington Post reports.

Oliver Ullrich, director of the UZH Space Hub and chair of Anatomy/Gravitational Biology and Cell Biomechanics, tells it that stem cells appear to differentiate more successfully in space and that he and his colleagues want to figure out why. While his samples have returned to Earth, the Post notes that he has not yet been able to fully analyze them due to COVID-19 restrictions, but Ullrich says his samples had grown more bone, cartilage, and other tissue than they would've on Earth.

This, it notes, isn't the only stem cell study to be conducted at the ISS. It adds that University of California, San Diego's Catriona Jamieson is studying aging-linked cancer development and UCSD's Alysson Muotri is studying how stem cell differentiation into brain tissue in space, which could give insight into the effect of microgravity on astronauts' brains

Eventually, the Post adds, by studying stem cells at ISS, the researchers hope to develop new therapies.