Florida lab is making a vaccine to live in space. It might help here, too. | Space

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Traveling by plane isn’t always easy on the body. And neither is space travel.

Astronauts often experience atrophy, the loss of bone and muscle, during their months living in zero gravity. People on Earth also tend to see their bones and muscles weaken as they age, increasing risk of injuries from falls.

Companies like Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin are working to open space travel for more people.

And figuring out how to reduce atrophy is on the mind of scientists.

At the University of Central Florida in Orlando, researchers have received state funding to collaborate with biotech company Vaxxinity, which moved its headquarters from Texas to Cape Canaveral last year, to develop vaccines that can prevent and mitigate muscle and bone weakening, a common health problem for people experiencing long-term spaceflight — and aging seniors.

The John C. Hitt Library at the University of Central Florida on Thursday. At UCF in Orlando, researchers have received state funding to collaborate with biotech company Vaxxinity, which moved its headquarters from Texas to Cape Canaveral last year, to develop vaccines that can prevent and mitigate muscle and bone weakening. [ RICARDO RAMIREZ BUXEDA | TNS ]

The funding for space medicine research is in line with UCF’s roots — the public university opened in 1968 to support the U.S. growing space program — and will help researchers develop studies to assess the effects of Vaxxinity’s immunotherapies on proteins in the body that could affect bone and muscle growth.

The goal? Create a vaccine that can help reduce muscle loss or help regain it in case of injury, immobility or space travel. This vaccine could help people on Earth and in space live a better and healthier life as they age, according to Melanie Coathup and Michal Masternak, professors who work in UCF’s College of Medicine and are involved in the collaboration.

If all goes well, human clinical trials for the vaccines could begin as early as 2025,…

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