Flying in space can be a bit like growing old, because without exercise and proper nutrition astronauts on weeks- or months-long missions would come back to Earth with difficulties staying balanced, with weaker bones and muscles, and with other health problems that are usually confined to seniors or those with disease.

Space Station (ISS) will study aging and how the age of mice living in microgravity affects the progression of symptoms that mimic some human diseases. Rodent research in space has been performed many times on the space shuttle and more recently on the ISS to better understand the effects of microgravity on astronaut health. The mice in this experiment will stay in space for over 30 days to provide a better idea how spaceflight effects on their health can inform us about human health on Earth.

This is the ninth Rodent Research mission launched to the ISS since 2014. Each mission has specific science goals,and studied different responses of the mice to spaceflight or therapeutic drugs (or sometimes, both at the same time). While it is possible to make some comparisons between spaceflights, it can be a challenge when mice of different genetic types or genetic backgrounds fly on different missions.
This situation makes it difficult to predict how the genetic background of a particular type of mouse may influence the effects of microgravity in other genetic backgrounds of mice. (Similar things happens with humans; certain genes predispose people to certain types of diseases, such as cancer.) So Rodent Research-8 aims to examine genetic influences more closely.
“This mission is different from previous missions as it is the first reference mission where young and old mice of the same genetic strain are flown together during the same mission,” said co-investigator Gretchen Kusek, the associate director of scientific services at private company Taconic Biosciences.

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