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So some little white mice have returned from their holidays.  They were on the ISS, orbiting around the Earth, and they’ve been there for 91 days.

It’s the longest space travel of any mammal apart from us, and scientists are keen to see what they can learn from them.  So far, they’ve got this:

1) Thyroids with equally sized follicles and higher activity in old age.  The lack of thyroid activity can cause impaired cognition and weight gain, so if we can replicate this on Earth it could be useful.

2) Radiation protection could be better understood soon, thanks to the increased “TBARS” in the mice’s cells.  I’m not going to pretend to understand the science behind that one.

3) The poor boy mice had sperm counts 90% lower than normal.  They’re not sure if it was radiation or micro-gravity that did it.

4) Loss of muscle mass is a well-known problem of zero gravity environments.  It’s mentioned in practically every novel involving space flight that doesn’t have artificial gravity.  But studies on the mice show that it might stabilise after a while – these ones had lost the same amount of muscle as mice on shorter missions.

5) Some of the mice were genetically modified to produce an extra protein, and these mice didn’t lose much bone density – 3% compared to 40% for the non-modified mice.  Mind you, I don’t see astronauts agreeing to be genetically modified for a long time!

Final Thoughts

While I don’t agree with experimenting on animals, these are some interesting findings.  Some of them even have applications outside of space travel, which means that more than 6 people might benefit from them in the next hundred years.

From New Scientist:

New concerns over safety of arsenic in drinking water

I was browsing the headlines and I had to stop at this one.  Arsenic?  In the drinking water?  Isn’t arsenic, you know, poisonous?  And what do they mean new concerns?

But it turns out that we’re only talking about 10 parts per billion, and the experiments were done on mice, which react differently to arsenic than humans do.  Suddenly I feel a lot safer.

It made me wonder though, how many experiments which cause panic and health scares are based on science done on mice.  Could a future scientist use mouse-trials to scare the population into thinking their new whatever is dangerous, while secretly using it themselves to advance their position in the world?

What would happen when they were caught using it?

The Author

Nicola Higgins is a 30-something martial artist who runs two Brownie packs and works full time. She somehow still finds time to write.

Her favourite genres are near-future and alternate world science fiction and fantasy.

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