TINY human muscle cells will be blasted into space in an experiment which could help people live longer, healthier lives.

The experiment, called MicroAge, is set to be launched to the International Space Station (ISS) tomorrow.

Space will be used in the name of understanding what happens to human muscles as people age – and why.

Lab-grown human muscle cells, which are the size of a grain of rice, are being contained in 3D-printed holders the size of a pencil sharpener.

Once in space, they will be electrically stimulated to induce contractions in the muscle tissue.

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Spending time without the effects of gravity can cause astronauts’ muscles to get weaker – just as they do in older age – before recovering when they return to Earth.

University of Liverpool researchers, funded by the UK Space Agency, will study what happens to muscle tissue in space, and compare the findings to what happens on Earth.

They hope that this research will aid in solving the puzzle of why muscles get weaker with age and perhaps contribute to ways this process could be prevented in the first place.

As people age, muscles naturally lose mass and strength – affecting the ease with which people carry out everyday tasks.

Muscle strength loss causes a host of problems, including an increased risk of falling and longer recovery times from injuries as a result.

Professor Malcolm Jackson, from the University of Liverpool, said: “Ageing is one of the greatest challenges of the 21st century and we will learn a great deal about how muscle responds to microgravity and ageing from the data we obtain from this study. The team has had to work extremely hard over the last three years to overcome the many challenges of sending our science into space.

“For example, the electronic equipment necessary to undertake these studies usually fills a large desk but we have managed to shrink this to the size of a pack of cards.

“This development work on automated and miniaturised systems represents an exciting innovation that could have a wider application in the future.”

Kayser Space, based at the Harwell Space Cluster in Oxfordshire, designed and built the scientific hardware to accommodate the muscle cells to ensure they survive the potential changes in temperature, vibration and G-force during launch.

MicroAge is due to launch on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from the Kennedy Space Centre, Florida, at 10am (GMT) tomorrow.

The UK Space Agency provided £1.2 million in funding to the University of Liverpool for the experiment, with its return to Earth set for January 2022, where the cells will undergo further analysis.

People can keep up to date with the progress of the study through a MicroAge App.