The International Space Station now plays host to an experiment that could help scientists unlock the mysteries of Alzheimer’s disease.
The devastating disease — a type of dementia that affects memory — currently plagues more than 5 million people in the United States alone. It’s a number so great that a new diagnosis is made every 67 seconds. But before scientists can find a cure, they need to better understand the origins of the disease in detail.
Alzheimer’s likely advances when certain proteins assemble themselves into long linear fibers that ultimately strangle nerve cells in the brain. In laboratories, however, these fibers collapse under their own weight before they can grow large enough to study. That’s where the space station’s unique position as a weight-free laboratory comes into play.