UConn Mice Headed Into Space

They’re the mighty mice on a medical mission out of this world.

“We’ve been trying to get this project off the ground for 20 years,” Dr. Se-Jin Lee said.

Forty mice from UConn Health will be sent to the International Space Station next month on the Space X 19 launch. Their mission is to test an experimental therapy for muscle and bone density loss.

The microgravity is a really great way to mimic that type of muscle loss because it’s a systemic muscle loss we are not just focused on one or two specific muscles.

Lee, the lead researcher with UConn School of Medicine and Jackson Laboratory, made the breakthrough discovery of “myostatin” in 1997. The molecule regulates muscle growth.

Lee genetically engineered eight of the mice headed to space without myostatin. They are known as the “Mighty Mice.”

“Those mice turned out to have twice the muscle mass so that immediately suggested to us in all kinds of potential applications for treating the disease where muscle loss and muscle wasting is a problem,” Lee explained.

“Here is this wonderful potential therapy that could help in both the realm of muscle and bone density,” Dr. Emily Germain-Lee with UConn Health and Connecticut Children’s said.

Lee’s wife and co-investigator Dr. Emily Germain-Lee will help measure how the experimental drug that blocks myostatin will affect eight other mice on the mission.

“It gives me hope because there’s a chance I think that this therapy maybe not right away but in the future could be the answer to helping a lot of children I see,” Germain-Lee said.

The mice will be in the care of astronaut Jessica Meir, one of the two women who recently walked the ISS in the recent all female spacewalk.

“The main focus is for improving human health on earth,” Lee said.

The 40 day mice mission that could bring medical breakthroughs from afar.

While in space the Lees will be able to get some the data in real time. The mice will land in California in January and the Lees will travel there for more evaluation.

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