Astronauts are growing space crystals that could save your life someday

Protein and virus crystals, several of which were grown on Russian or U.S. space shuttles
Source: NASA Marshall Space Flight Center/Wikimedia Commons
Protein and virus crystals, several of which were grown on Russian or U.S. space shuttles
Source: NASA Marshall Space Flight Center/Wikimedia Commons

Adventures in outer space tells us more about the human experience than just galaxies and stars — it can also innovate our healthcare industry.

NASA scientists on the International Space Station are growing crystals to figure out how they can speed up drug development for humans.

The human body needs proteins to live, but some are too tiny to study under a microscope. For that reason, scientists are using a process called protein crystallization to understand their structure from beginning to end.

A protein's shape can give "clues about its function and behavior," NASA stated in a video.

Source: YouTube

If done successfully, it could build humanity's understanding of disease and how specific drugs could battle them.

There's a reason scientists are growing these crystals in space rather than on Earth: Space crystals typically have fewer flaws, creating a higher-quality sample to work with. As the video states, "the goal is to produce the biggest, most perfect crystals for study."

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Kelly Kasulis

Kelly Kasulis is a journalist covering tech and science for Mic. Follow her on Twitter: @KasulisK.

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