It is one of the biggest hurdles NASA must overcome before astronauts embark on long duration space travel to Mars or building permanent settlements on the moon: how to minimize the heavy toll exacted on even the most physically fit human bodies in zero gravity. Indeed, when astronauts return from orbit they can barely even walk.
So to help ensure astronauts don’t arrive at their destination too weak to explore, the space agency has teamed up with Pluristem, an Israeli biotech company, to investigate whether injecting them with cells derived from a mother’s nutrient-rich placenta can increase muscle volume — a process now in trials on Earth for the elderly.
“When NASA saw this data, they gave us a call,” says Yaky Yanay, the co-CEO and president of Pluristem and co-chairman of Israel Advanced Technology Industries. “When you are in a zero gravity environment, you can lose 20 percent of your muscle mass” on spaceflights lasting between five and 11 days.
The experiment with NASA will include laboratory and animal studies before launching clinical trails in space.