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Rats Decapitated and Dissected in Shuttle Study

<i> From Reuters</i>

Astronauts aboard the space shuttle Columbia decapitated and dissected four rodents Saturday as part of a $99-million research program to study how space travel affects the nervous system.

Columbia crew members Dave Williams and Jay Buckey Jr. killed four adult male rats and removed brain and nerve tissue.

A box designed to contain blood spills was used for the dissections.

The brain tissue will be examined after the flight to determine how the brain “rewires” itself when it adapts to a new environment, Gay Holstein, a researcher from the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in New York, said.

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“The first four dissections went fabulously well,” said Holstein.

Researchers will count synapses, the connections formed between brain cells, using electron microscopes to magnify the tissue samples tens of thousands of times.

The experiment is one of 26 planned for the shuttle’s 16- to 17-day neurological research program. The shuttle mission was devised after President Bush declared the 1990s the decade of the brain.


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