PORTLAND, Ore. -- Millions of Americans suffer from chronic pain in their knees and joints. Treatment and surgery can alleviate some of the discomfort, but there is no cure.

OHSU scientist Dr. Jamie Fitzgerald is hoping to change that -- by sending mice into space to study their ability to regenerate their own cartilage.

It s an experiment we can t do on earth, Dr. Fitzgerald said, but should give us information on how to treat cartilage injuries.

If those mice are regenerating cartilage because they have a particular gene, Fitzgerald believes he may one day be able to pinpoint that gene and develop a medication or therapy which will allow humans to do the same.

The Blazers Brandon Roy would be first in line for that.

I found out at an early age that, once you have some cartilage taken out, it s kind of over for that, said the Blazers All-Star guard, who s been hobbled this season with knee problems.

That s exactly what Fitzgerald is hoping to change.

If we can understand the genetic makeup of that regeneration, we might be able to create some kind of intervention in humans.

Fitzgerald is planning to be in Florida this spring for the next launch of the space shuttle. His mice will be on board with the astronauts. He did stress that a cure for joint pain or cartilage damage is still years away.

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