The UK’s first Space Innovation Lab opened at the Botnar Institute of Musculoskeletal Sciences, University of Oxford on Friday, July 7.
The lab is focused on understanding the effect of space microgravity on the ageing process.
Led by Dr. Ghada Al-Saleh, the lab will provide researchers with direct operational connection to crew of the International Space Station to supervise experiments on human tissue samples.
The researchers hope to get a better understanding of the mechanisms of ageing, which is characterised by a progressive loss of cellular function and associated with diseases such as cancer and cardiovascular disorders. The consequence is not only the impact on quality of life, but also comes with a high medical-economic cost.
Speaking on the significance of the microgravity conditions, Al-Saleh said: “The microgravity in space acts as to accelerate the ageing process so (it) provides an excellent platform to investigate the underlying cellular mechanisms that normally occur over a very long period on earth.
“By understanding more about human physiology on our planet, we can potentially find new drugs for healthier ageing.”
The Oxford lab is the latest addition to a global network of labs that have been created through a partnership between Metavisionaries in the UK and Space Applications Services in Belgium.
The labs promote scientific, industrial, and educational application of the Metaverse and space knowledge transfer.
Wasim Ahmed, the CEO of Metavisionaries, said, “Space belongs to us all, and it is our shared responsibility to explore its potential for improving human life.”
He added that their partnership with Space Application Services, and now the university, allows them “to leverage space microgravity as an untapped frontier for medical research.”
A ceremony at the Botnar Institute will mark the opening of the lab and feature two esteemed speakers: Dr. James Green, a former NASA chief scientist, and Hilde Stenuit, a business developer for ICE Cubes (by Space Applications Services).
Green said that the lab represents “a significant milestone in our quest for knowledge.”
He added: “Harnessing the unique conditions of space to study the intricacies of ageing not only serves our fundamental scientific curiosity, but has the potential to yield insights that could profoundly impact healthcare on Earth. It is indeed a giant leap towards the future of biomedical research.”
Stenuit said: “We are truly excited to unveil the Space Innovation Lab in Oxford as part of the global network. The combination and collaboration of space scientists, Earth lab infrastructures, access to space and access to the Metaverse is very synergetic for science, technologies and related innovative applications.”