back to article Brit rubbish-dump worms in space station science triumph

An international boffinry alliance, by means of sending a huge colony of worms found scoffing rotting vegetables in a Bristol rubbish dump on a trip to the International Space Station, has found a cure for the muscle wasting suffered by astronauts living in zero/micro gravity. The worms in question were of the species …


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  1. Steven Knox

    I, for one...

    ...welcome our new old and infirm musclebound overlords.

    "The findings are also expected to prove useful in fighting muscle loss due to old age and illness."

  2. Tim #3


    love the job title "space garbage-worm gene therapy boffin"

  3. M7S

    From rubbish dump to astronaut

    Who says there's no social mobility under the tories?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Social mobility

      I always thought it was Labour that suppressed social mobility. Tories are more about aspiration and growth, as I understood it. (Maybe I haven't been listening properly!)

    2. Anonymous Coward


      Nice theory, but these low-lifes were expelled from this realm in 2009 well before Cameruin got his hands on the levers. Besides, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer whichever political wing are the acting puppets of the day.

  4. Anonymous Coward


    El Reg regularly, and appropriately, questions over-hyping of all sorts of stories in the press. So...

    Cure? Not even close. This is an interesting experiment the demonstrates that a 1mm long worm containing less than 1000 cells (959 to be exact in the wild type) can be treated with chunks of RNA so that it reduces the expression of proteins involved in muscle loss. This was just a demonstration, a long long way from a "cure". The scientists themselves wrote "suggesting RNAi may provide an effective tool for combating spaceflight-induced pathologies aboard future long-duration space missions."

    And to continue the pedantry, C elegans does not eat rotting vegetables, it eats soil bacteria, often found in large concentrations around rotting veg.

    OK, this is not the end of the world but please don't confuse "may provide an effective tool" with "cure".

    1. peyton?

      It's Friday; you shouldn't be so angry

      The journey of a million miles begins with a single step.

  5. Asgard

    This sounds like a very important breakthrough :)

    @"see if RNA interference therapy (RNAi) could be used to fight the serious loss of muscle"

    I wonder what would happen if say an athlete were treated with this therapy? Would they (statistically speaking) retain more muscle than they normally would in a normal human?

    Because this kind of therapy would certainly make drug testing a lot harder to detect in any kind of chemical enhanced style cheating in sports.

    Anyway it sounds like this could also potentially really help long term bed ridden patents and perhaps even the elderly to reduce their muscle loss as well.

    I wonder what it does for couch potatos and computer operators stuck at their desk all day. :)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      "Because this kind of therapy would certainly make drug testing a lot harder to detect in any kind of chemical enhanced style cheating in sports."

      Sports? Who cares!

      Why is it that the first thing people think about is sports. This research has so many other more noble applications than giving some rich meat-head who runs around a paddock even more muscle mass.

      As you noted, the frail, bed ridden and elderly would be the best target of this research to improve their quality of life, and mobility.

  6. Mike Richards

    Whilst we're on the subjects of beasties from outer space

    Any news on the Shuttle Squid?

    1. Marketing Hack Silver badge

      The squid mated with the worms

      And now we have a slimy, tentacled, musclebound space horrors stalking the corridors of the ISS. All we need now is to cross that with a batch of vampire bats or leachs that are taken into space!!

  7. Buzzword
    IT Angle

    Clear IT relevance

    Could this same technology also be used to prevent muscle wastage in desk-bound IT workers? Normally we're all at the pinnacle of fitness, but sometimes when projects are running late, we just don't have time to flex at the gym.

    Just wait til the "pro-active" yoghurt marketeers get wind of this.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Very intresting

    More so from the point of view of people with various issues meaning long terms in beds.

    I know it costs a lot to get up there, but its things like this that, should it progress to a treatment, will make a huge difference to peoples lives back here at home.

    Well done chaps


    1. Red Bren

      In your face, space science denigrators!!!

      It's excellent work like this that can be shown to idiots who ask "Why don't scientists do something more useful than space exploration, like find a cure for cancer?"

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Counting down...

    How long until it becomes used as a performance enhancing drug in sports?

    1. Rattus Rattus

      More importantly...

      Who cares?

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not a surprise...

    ...Bristol has some of the finest dumps in the country, hell you can pick up fine art there!

  11. Disco-Legend-Zeke

    At Last, No More...


  12. Anonymous Coward

    But where they armed

    With Rocket launchers, and of course the old favourite the stick of dynamite.

    1. Jess--

      rocket launchers... Pah

      I always preferred the banana bomb or the holy hand grenade

  13. Trygve

    hhmmmm... Nematodes on a space station

    Presumably the next step is to try something similar with some Annelids, and add a rogue AI into the mix. That could be a real shock to the system.

  14. Paul_Murphy


    or an alligator - that would be a real shock to the ISS residents.

    Much like this XKCD page:


  15. g e

    Give it to the Americans for free

    Like we usually do.

    God forbid we should hold onto any handy inventions/discoveries and make a few bob from them.

    1. Nunyabiznes


      Since it was jointly funded, why wouldn't the Americans (and the Japanese - who did a lot of the research) get a share?

      "The experiment was part of the Japanese CERISE payload and funded by the US National Institute of Health and the UK Medical Research Council. Japanese scientists contributed much of the research. "

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    1 out of 5


    -muscle degeneration fixed (...sort of)

    to do:

    - bone de-calcification

    - radiation treatment/prevention

    - prevent mental issues with living in confined spaces

    - massive improvements in ion or nuclear drive performance

    Almost ready for that trip to Alpha Centuri...

  17. Martin

    International Boffinry Alliance


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