Publication date: Aug 06, 2019
An ongoing experiment at the International Space Station may help identify triggers for multiple sclerosis (MS) and Parkinson’s disease by studying how nerve cells and immune cells interact when exposed to microgravity. Knowledge gained is expected to help scientists understand how nerve and immune brain cells interact with each other and in ways that damage the nervous system, leading to neurodegenerative diseases. To understand why this happens, researchers are focusing on brain cells involved in Parkinson’s and MS. In both diseases, damage to the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) is thought to happen due to flaws in a person’s immune system. Specifically, researchers will study two cell types – nerve cells (or neurons), and microglia, supportive immune cells that patrol the brain and defend it from threatening invaders like bacteria and viruses. -The microglia are found in every part of the brain, and it’s really starting to look like neurodegenerative illnesses develop because the cells begin behaving improperly or overreacting,” said Valentina Fossati, PhD, an MS researcher at New York Stem Foundation Research Institute, and a study co-leader. Neurons and microglia from MS and Parkinson’s patients, alongside cells from healthy people of the same age, were launched aboard the SpaceX CRS-18 cargo flight on July 31 and are now at the space station, inside a CubeLab system developed by Space Tango.
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