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  • Long March-7 rocket carrying Tianzhou-1 cargo spacecraft lifts off from the launching pad in Wenchang, Hainan province, China, April 20, 2017.

    Long March-7 rocket carrying Tianzhou-1 cargo spacecraft lifts off from the launching pad in Wenchang, Hainan province, China, April 20, 2017. | Photo: Xinhua

Scientists around the world are looking for the "keys" to enable humans to regrow tissues or organs, just like a gecko can regrow a tail.

Stem cell research on Tianzhou-1, China's first cargo spacecraft, is far from realizing the dream of human tissue or organ regrowth, but it's making the first step to explore the possibility.

Scientists from the Institute of Zoology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences are conducting experiments on Tianzhou-1, which launched Thursday, to study the effects of micro-gravity on embryonic stem cell proliferation and differentiation.

The spacecraft is carrying embryonic stem cells and embryoid bodies of mice. Scientists will observe the process of their proliferation and differentiation in space through telescope images. Parallel experiments will be conducted on the ground to compare the results, says lead researcher Duan Enkui.

"We hope to get an initial understanding about the space micro-gravity effects on stem cell proliferation and differentiation," said Duan.

The basis of tissue engineering and regenerative medicine research, stem cell biology is regarded as one of the most important research fields of the 21st Century.

The study of microgravity's effects on the proliferation and differentiation of stem cells is a hot topic in the field of space life science.

The current life science experiments on Tianzhou-1 are remotely controlled, which may be difficult. Scientists hope to enter China's space station in future to personally conduct the experiments.

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