Micro Wave: Mighty Mice, Drugs And Hopes For Space Voyagers
Okay John So let's start with the problem that these mighty mice are helping to solve which has to do with what happens to animals including people when they spend long periods of time and space right. The the problem is without the force of gravity bones and muscles atrophy astronauts used to lose up to twenty percent of their muscle mass during just a couple of weeks in orbit. So now they spent two hours a day exercising, but they still lose muscle and bone and researchers have been looking for a way to prevent that which is why back in December. They'll save day. They sent up some mighty mice into space. Honestly John. I cannot get enough of that theme song. It's good yet catchy, right I was lucky enough to be invited to the launch by the lead researchers say generally the Jackson Laboratory and Emily Jer, mainly at the University of Connecticut. So I was hanging out with them in Florida when these mice got rocketed up to the International Space Station. Two minute warning. I feel like our heart and soul is going up in the day. You know. Was a pretty great moment and the idea was to send forty mice to the space station for a month where they would live in what's called microgravity and the researchers wanted to answer a couple of questions. One was, will these genetically engineered mighty mice? Stay mighty question is, will they lose any of that muscle mass and then if they do lose then will they lose at the same rate as normal mice will end up at the same place as normal mice where they'd be somewhat protected and so forth the other question involves a drug that shuts down this regulatory. Mechanism, that usually limits the growth of muscle and bone. So it's like flipping a switch few injections, and at least earth you can see the bones start to get more dense. The muscles start getting bigger right in from the paper, and I'm very generally summarizing here. The experiment looked at different groups of mice that were sent into space regular mice who didn't get the drug mice who did get the drug and those genetically modified mighty mice. The ones that are just like already yoked year pretty much that you had to control group, the treatment group and these Super Freaky buff rodents. So. So what did they find John? Well, the mice made it to the station fine and while they were circling the earth, you know they were floating around in their cages. They all got a lot of exercise once they get up there they become very active. In fact, they have a name for race tracking because they're. Running around quite a bit. They stayed up there for like a month thin splashdown off the coast of California, they were rushed from their capsule to a lab in San Diego and Lee says the typical mice you know the ones that did not receive any treatment. Those mice lost about ten percent of their muscle mass and bone loss was an even bigger problem. They lost a substantial amount of bone in space, and then even after being on earth they continue to lose a little bit more. Bone mass but the genetically modified mighty mice didn't lose muscle and only lost a little bit of bone and the mice got the drug Lee told me they did even better. The drug was effective not just in preserving the muscle mass and bone nast was being lost but actually caused the muscles and bones to grow. Wow that's wild John it is and you know it's potentially really a big deal because you know you can't genetically modify astronauts at least not yet but you can give them a drug. John I mean the seems like good news for the researchers I mean I've done a fair bit of mouse experiments my day but. None of them were sent to the International Space Station. That's that's a lot of pressure for an experiment. Yeah. Yeah. It is you. You only get one chance. All kinds of stuff could go wrong and while the mice were in orbit, scientists had depend on the astronauts to do things like inject this drug into the animals. You know it probably helped that at least one member of the crew that would. Be. Just mere has a PhD in biology, right? Right okay. So John, how close are we? I have to imagine we're not ready to like put this in astronauts quite yet and shoot them up and avoid all these problems. No, not yet You Know Emily Germain Lee told me she thinks it's a really encouraging step. They had a phenomenal response to the drug without apparently any bad side effects that's. Not. Necessarily something that we could extrapolate to humans right into fair John No side effects yet, plus as you know emily inferred mice aren't humans they're not not even mighty mice or maybe I should say especially, not mighty mice there have been several efforts to turn similar drugs into therapies for people and those efforts so far have failed. Pharmaceutical companies have done human trials and either the people in the studies didn't put on as much muscles expected or there were side effects it just hasn't worked yet, but the scientists are really determined and not. Just because they want help astronauts, bone and muscle loss is a major health problem for millions of people. It's something that happens with age. It can also be the result of a disease or pretty much anything that leaves a person bedridden or inactive for long periods in turns out bedrest is a lot like being in microgravity. So getting drugs that could reverse muscle and bone loss, it would be a huge advance. Okay. John. Hamilton. Thank you for bringing this update your story back in January as always it has been a delight you are most welcome. Okay all right bye-bye reshaped you. Right And now we're GONNA wrap up as we often liked to do with these microwaves with a few notes from you are lovely listeners. Our first one comes from Jason Trautmann here's part of the letter in which he talked about our recent announcement to cut back on episodes. It says I one hundred percent support your decision to slow down the pace definitely don't want anyone to get burned out especially during these trying times it would also be tragic if in trying to post every weekday, the quality of the show suffered from the grind of constantly looming deadline Jason you got it without the full resources available as in the before times I. Agree Jason Thank you that means a lot to us jason is a former chemist and air force acquisition guy and apparent trying to eat teach his kids And Jason from the sounds of things you've got a lot on your plate as well. So be sure to take care of yourself. All right next up in response to our episode about Super Slippery toilets that were tested using synthetic poop. We joked that the recipe for artificial poop was in the scientific article Listener Pam Jones wrote my eleven year old son and I love your show. Of course, he wants the poop recipe Pam don't we all and I'm here to serve. So here it is get a little pen and paper. All right. Here we go. I'm going to give you a second. Three Parts Yeast one part Sy- Liam, which is in fiber supplements. To parts, peanut oil. One part me so. One part polyethylene glycol, which you can find an laxatives, but maybe I would just leave it out honestly. One part calcium phosphate and just a dash of cellulose. Delicious. And one thing here. shortwave is no way liable for to be used by listeners please be responsible and hilarious. Today's episode was produced by Rebecca Ramirez and edited by Jeff from feel. Ariella Zabidi check those facts have a fun and safe weekend everybody and we'll see you back here next week.