The International Space Station (ISS), a 450 ton space laboratory that circles Earth every 45 minutes, is both one of humanity’s great technological achievements and a testament to the rewards of international cooperation. The ISS has been continuously manned since 2000 and visited by men and women from 15 separate countries.
The station allows researchers to access a laboratory where they can test in microgravity conditions, and this research could lead to an Alzheimer’s disease breakthrough.
The Promise of Microgravity Research
Microgravity research has led to a number of breakthroughs with medical and industrial applications, and now the space station is playing host to research that could give scientists crucial insights into Alzheimer’s.
The project all started with a contest asking for students and researchers to propose research to take place. This project and four others beat out numerous competitors for precious space on a recent SpaceX launch to the International Space Station.
One Great Leap for Alzheimer’s Research
It’s long been understood that Alzheimer’s is associated with amyloid fibers composed of “tau proteins” or amyloid-beta peptides. Unfortunately, studying these protein fibers and the mechanism of their formation has been difficult on Earth, because they “settle” or collapse under their own weight.
But, the International Space Station allows researchers to study these Alzheimer’s-associated protein fibers in microgravity where they can grow freely and will not “settle.” With a little luck, this research could lead to treatments that “hinder the aggregation of the spherical particles into linear chains.”
NASA physician David Tipton, chief of the Aerospace Medicine and Environmental Health Branch at KSC, told Alzheimer’s Weekly:
“This could be the most important biomedical discovery ever made at Kennedy Space Center.”
This video discusses more about the project and the importance of investing in space flight and space technology:
What do you think about the latest research to come out of the International Space Station? Is this be a step in the right direction for Alzheimer’s? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.
- The 2015 Alzheimer’s Disease Research Summit
- 5 Developments in Alzheimer’s Awareness
- Alzheimer’s Research Spending vs. Annual Care Costs