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The astrophysicist Stephen Hawking believes that if humanity is to survive we will have to up sticks and colonise space. But is the human body up to the challenge?

Scientists at The University of Nottingham believe that Caenorhabditis elegans (C. elegans), a microscopic worm which has biologically similarities to human beings, could help us understand how humans might cope with long-duration space exploration.

Their research, published Nov. 30, 2011 in Interface, a journal of The Royal Society, has shown that in space the C. elegans develops from egg to adulthood and produces progeny just as it does on earth. This makes it an ideal and cost-effective experimental system to investigate the effects of long duration and distance space exploration.

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