Researchers have levitated small mice in a powerful magnetic field that simulates the gravity-free world of space.
Their work calls attention to a technology that could help unravel a range of phenomena from the physics of fluids to the genetic underpinnings of osteoporosis.
The research by scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif., is intended to supplement and verify experiments conducted aboard the International Space Station, which last month received its first batch of mice for a long-duration stay.
"We can use this facility to create microgravity for a long period of time," lead researcher Yuanming Liu told. "We can study if prolonged exposure to reduced gravity can have a long-term impact on the physiology of the mouse."
Levitation devices that generate magnetic fields to counter the tug of gravity have been around for several years, though none have been large enough to float something as big as a mouse.
Bruce Hammer, a professor of radiology at the University of Minnesota, uses magnetic levitation to learn about genes that impact bone loss.