Measuring Accelerated Aging in Space
Just under a year ago, we reported on the 2016 winner of the annual Genes in Space competition, 15 year old Julian Rubinfien. The competition challenges children between 12 and 18 years old to use DNA analysis to solve a real-life problem of space exploration, with the winner having their experiment carried out on board the International Space Station (ISS).
Rubinfien’s entry was an experiment to measure how the length of telomeres, the caps on the end of chromosomes that are shortened with age, are changed during spaceflight using a PCR-based assay and human organoids. Astronauts can experience accelerated aging while in space, and Rubinfien’s experiment hoped to uncover whether premature shortening of their telomeres contributes to the problem.
10 months later, Rubinfien’s equipment has finally made its way to the ISS in a Cygnus capsule. While the experiment was being run, US astronaut Jack D. Fischer recorded a special message to congratulate Julian’s achievement.
Cover photo source: European Space Agency (Paolo Nespoli) & NASA