We are not talking about searching the universe for answers here, rather a series of experiments that are about to commence on the International Space Station. It is hoped that by understanding how Alzheimer’s originates, scientists may finally figure out a way to cure or prevent it.
According to Sam Durrance, principal investigator and former astronaut,
Through our project we seek to develop an improved understanding of the origin of life on our planet, increase our understanding of Alzheimer’s disease and provide an opportunity to apply this new understanding for the betterment of humanity,”
Studying for the cause of Alzheimer’s in space? But why SPACE?
Because the mechanisms of the amyloid fibers, which are found in Alzheimer’s, are difficult to study on earth because the protein fibers settles which prevent further growth.
Since there is no weight in space, they should stay suspended and continue growing with multiple fibers wrapping around each other into helical fiber bundles. The analysis of these fiber bundles should provide a clearer understanding of the internal structure of the amyloid fibers.
The experiment will include about 9 different incubation periods from one day to 30 days during orbit operations. When the buffer solution and protein powder are mixed and the temperature is set, it takes about a day to agglomerate into protein spheres, a few days to form fibers and a week or more to become tangling fibers, which in 30 days on Earth, would settle.
On the other hand, Dr. Shaohua Xu who first developed this theory affirms that if he is on the right track, it may be possible to halt the disease with drugs that hinder the aggregation of the spherical colloidal particles into linear chains. Similar chemicals are already used to stabilize artificial colloidal materials such as inks and paints.
Advocates of Dr. Xu’s theory, such as:
NASA physician David Tipton, chief of the Aerospace Medicine and Environmental Health Branch at KSC, says, “This could be the most important biomedical discovery ever made at Kennedy Space Center.”
Additionally, Pamela Tronetti, medical director of the Parrish Senior Consultative Center, predicts, “If this theory is correct, it may well have as great an impact on neurodegenerative disease as the discovery of germs had on infection.”
via Alzheimer’s Weekly