Oxford opens the UK’s first Space Innovation Lab

Thursday 6th Jul 2023, 11.52am

Led by Dr Ghada Alsaleh, researchers will have direct operational connection to the International Space Station (ISS) to follow their research experiments, in particular on human tissue samples that might provide a better understanding of the mechanisms of ageing, and lead to potential treatments to address age-associated diseases.

As populations around the world are getting older, ageing is becoming one of the most significant societal issues particularly around health and disease. Ageing is characterised by a progressive loss of cellular function, and is associated with various diseases including neurodegeneration, cancer, cardiovascular disorders, and infection. The consequence is not only the impact on quality of life, but also comes with a high medical-economic cost.

Dr Alsaleh said: ‘The microgravity in space acts as to accelerate the ageing process so provides an excellent platform to investigate the underlying cellular mechanisms that normally occur over a very long period on earth. Our collaboration will help advance our understanding of human physiology and human health on our planet, to potentially find new drugs that can promote healthier ageing.’

Dr Ghada Alsaleh in the Space Innovation LabDr Ghada Alsaleh in the Space Innovation Lab

The Oxford lab joins a global network of Space Innovation Labs that have been created through a partnership between Metavisionaries (UK) and Space Applications Services (BE). The aim of the partnership is to promote the scientific, industrial, and educational application of the Metaverse and cooperate on related space knowledge transfer.

Wasim Ahmed (CEO of Metavisionaries) said: ‘Space belongs to us all, and it is our shared responsibility to explore its potential for improving human life. Our partnership with Space Applications Services and now the University of Oxford allows us to leverage space microgravity as an untapped frontier for medical research. As Neil Armstrong once said, “Mystery creates wonder and wonder is the basis of man’s desire to understand.”’

The inauguration of the lab will be marked by an event at the Botnar Institute with two distinguished speakers and a demonstration of the lab facilities: James Green, former NASA Chief Scientist, and Hilde Stenuit, ICE Cubes (by Space Applications Services) business developer.

James Green said: ‘The establishment of this Space Innovation Lab represents a significant milestone in our quest for knowledge. Harnessing the unique conditions of space to study the intricacies of ageing not only serves our fundamental scientific curiosity, but has the potential to yield insights that could profoundly impact healthcare on Earth. It is indeed a giant leap towards the future of biomedical research.’

James Green in the Space Innovation LabJames Green in the Space Innovation Lab

Hilde Stenuit said: ‘We are truly excited to unveil the Space Innovation Lab in Oxford as part of the global network. The combination and collaboration of space scientists, of specialists on ageing, of access to space and access to the Metaverse is very synergetic for science and related innovative applications.’