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The effect of spaceflight on a microscopic worm — Caenorhabditis elegans (C. elegans) — could help it to live longer.

The discovery was made by an international group of scientists studying the loss of bone and muscle mass experienced by astronauts after extended flights in space. The results of this research have been published July 5 2012, in the online journal Scientific Reports.

Dr Nathaniel Szewczyk, from The University of Nottingham, was part of the ICE-FIRST project which involved scientists from Japan, France, the US, and Canada. They discovered that spaceflight suppressed accumulation of toxic proteins that normally accumulate within aging muscle. They also discovered a group of genes that are expressed at lower levels during spaceflight. When the expression of these same genes were lowered in worms back on Earth the worms lived longer.

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