Parkinson’s Disease Research Goes Into Orbit

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by Wendy Henderson |

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A recent study of the Parkinson’s disease protein LRRK2 has shifted into a new phase — one that will take it into outer space. This week, a research team from the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) and the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Disease Research, launched the protein into space so that it could be studied in the microgravity conditions at the International Space Station (ISS).

MORE: 12 types of exercise suitable for people with Parkinson’s disease

The protein and other materials required for the study were loaded into the SpaceX Dragon capsule, along with other scientific and food supplies.

According to a report on, mutated forms of the LRRK2 protein could be responsible for the onset of Parkinson’s disease. To fully examine the properties of the protein, researchers need to grow crystals of the protein in lab dishes. However, gravity was inhibiting the growth of the protein crystals, bringing their study to a halt. The microgravity conditions at the ISS may help the crystals grow so scientists can better study their structure.

The protein crystals will spend a month up at the ISS before coming back down to earth for scientists to study using high energy X-rays.

MORE: Key Parkinson’s protein gets starring research role on International Space Station

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