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Interface:英国科学家确认线虫可为人类太空移民探路

2011/12/02 来源:新华网
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向太空移民是人类的梦想,但太空飞行危险重重,谁能够充当探路者呢?英国科学家最近确认,线虫是个可行的选择。

向太空移民是人类的梦想,但太空飞行危险重重,谁能够充当探路者呢?英国科学家最近确认,线虫是个可行的选择。

英国皇家学会主办的学术刊物《界面》30日在线发表研究报告分析说,利用线虫担任太空探路者有三大优势:

首先,线虫与人类有可比性。英国诺丁汉大学科学家纳撒尼尔·谢夫奇克说,线虫虽然在外形上与人类相差巨大,但基本生理活动与人类非常相似。另外,它们在地球上已经长期被用作科学研究中的模式生物。

其次,线虫能够在太空繁衍,因此种群可以经历漫长的太空旅行。2006年,美国“发现”号航天飞机将4000只秀丽隐杆线虫带入太空。英国研究人员在分析有关数据后确认,线虫在太空中能正常地孵化并长大为成体,成熟后正常繁衍后代。

第三,人类已经拥有可靠的远程观测线虫的系统。在航天飞机上的实验证明,人类可以在地球上远程控制装有线虫的设备,进行有效观测并收集研究数据。

线虫是动物界中数量最多的物种之一,广泛寄生于动、植物,或自由生活于土壤、淡水和海水环境中,钩虫、蛲虫等消化道寄生虫都属于线虫。

 

Remote automated multi-generational growth and observation of an animal in low Earth orbit

Elizabeth A. Oczypok, Timothy Etheridge, Jacob Freeman, Louis Stodieck, Robert Johnsen, David Baillie and Nathaniel J. Szewczyk

The ultimate survival of humanity is dependent upon colonization of other planetary bodies. Key challenges to such habitation are (patho)physiologic changes induced by known, and unknown, factors associated with long-duration and distance space exploration. However, we currently lack biological models for detecting and studying these changes. Here, we use a remote automated culture system to successfully grow an animal in low Earth orbit for six months. Our observations, over 12 generations, demonstrate that the multi-cellular soil worm Caenorhabditis elegans develops from egg to adulthood and produces progeny with identical timings in space as on the Earth. Additionally, these animals display normal rates of movement when fully fed, comparable declines in movement when starved, and appropriate growth arrest upon starvation and recovery upon re-feeding. These observations establish C. elegans as a biological model that can be used to detect changes in animal growth, development, reproduction and behaviour in response to environmental conditions during long-duration spaceflight. This experimental system is ready to be incorporated on future, unmanned interplanetary missions and could be used to study cost-effectively the effects of such missions on these biological processes and the efficacy of new life support systems and radiation shielding technologies.

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