HONOLULU (AP) – Dozens of squid from Hawaii are in place for study.
Baby Hawaiian bobtail squid were bred at the University of Hawaii’s Kewalo Marine Laboratory and were blown out of space earlier this month on a SpaceX supply mission to the International Space Station.
Researcher Jamie Foster, who completed his doctorate at the University of Hawaii, is studying how space travel affects the octopus in hopes of boosting human health during long space missions, Star-Advertiser Honolulu reported Monday.
The squid has a symbiotic relationship with natural bacteria that help regulate their bioluminescence.
When astronauts are in heavy gravity, their body’s relationship to microbes changes, said Hawaii professor Margaret McFall-Ngai, under whom Foster studied in the 1990s.
“We have found that symbiosis of humans with their microbes is disrupted in microgravity, and Jamie has shown that it is true in squid,” McFall-Ngai said. “And because it’s a simple system, she can get to the bottom of what’s going wrong.”
Foster is now a professor in Florida and lead researcher for a NASA program that studies how microgravity affects the interactions between animals and microbes.
“As astronauts spend more and more time in space, their immune system becomes what is called dysregulated. It does not work so well, ”said Foster. “Their immune system does not recognize bacteria so easily. They sometimes get sick. ”
Foster said understanding what happens to squid in space could help solve health problems that astronauts face.
“There are aspects of the immune system that just don’t work properly during prolonged spaceflights,” she said. “If humans want to spend time on the moon or Mars, we need to solve health problems to get them there safely.”
Kewalo Marine Laboratory breeds squid for research projects around the world. The small animals are abundant in Hawaiian waters and are approx. 7.6 centimeters long as adults.
The octopus returns to Earth in July.
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