Spacefaring worms undergo genetic alterations associated with longer lives in their Earth-bound cousins, research has shown.
A quantity of Caenorhabditis elegans worms had been carried aboard a mission to the International Space Station (ISS) and brought back for study.
Researchers identified reduced activity of five genes in the worms that, when suppressed in the species on Earth, lead to longer lifetimes.
The work appears in Scientific Reports.
The nematode C. elegans is among the world’s most-studied animals.
They have been routinely taken as cargo on space missions to study in a basic organism the biological modifications that future human spacefarers may face the worms even survived the space shuttle Columbia disaster in 2003.
More recently, the prospects for a self-contained and self-sustaining colony of the worms were described in a 2011 paper in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface.
But it was also the first multi-celled organism to have its entire genome sequenced, and researchers are now getting to the bottom of what alterations space travel wreaks on the worms’ genomes.
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The effect of spaceflight on a microscopic worm – Caenorhabditis elegans (C. elegans) – could help it to live longer. The discovery was made by an international group of scientists studying the loss of bone and muscle mass experienced by astronauts after extended flights in space. The results of this research have been published today, July 5…