Researchers from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and Yakult will study the gastrointestinal effects probiotic milk has in space and the impact on the human immune system.
Yakult, a well known manufacturer and distributor of the probiotic dairy product of the same name, will be joining forces with JAXA in an experiment to test the effects of lactic-acid bacilli on the human digestive system. The agreement for the collaborative project was announced last week, with the first steps of the experiment to commence as early as April on the International Space Station (ISS).
The primary point of the research is to study the effects of probiotics specifically on the body’s immune functions. Through the years speculations about the negative effects of weightlessness on the human digestive system has been proven largely inaccurate, or not as worse as initially assumed. However it has been discovered that the immune system is, as a whole, still affected negatively, especially during long term stays in space. Researchers plan to determine the long term effects of the consumption of probiotic milk in space, to see if it could have any significant impact on space health.
Another important point of this research is the observation of gut microbiota in a microgravity environment. Microorganisms, as observed by several previous space research programs, show increased activity and growth when subjected to the weightless environment of outer space. The joint research wants to determine the exact effects of weightlessness on these friendly milk bacteria, to see if they would also exhibit more or less the same behavior, or something else entirely.
Overall, this creamy collaborative experiment aims to push forward our knowledge in space medicine further. It would incorporate several years of microbiota research already done by Yakult with JAXA’s current biomedical research knowledge. In addition, the experiments will be part of JAXA’s long term program to improve space food preparation, to incorporate new items and ingredients that would help astronauts stay healthier in space.