Here we demonstrate a magnetic 3D bioprinting method for rapidly and reproducibly printing three-dimensional (3D) spheroids in high- throughput formats. We show the utility of these spheroids for cell viability testing using the CellTiter-Glo® and RealTime-GloTM Cell Viability Assays.
Altered immune function has been demonstrated in astronauts during spaceflights dating back to Apollo and Skylab; this could be a major barrier to long-term space exploration. We tested the hypothesis that spaceflight causes changes in microRNA (miRNA) expression. Human leukocytes were stimulated with mitogens on board the International Space Station using an onboard normal gravity control. Bioinformatics showed that miR-21 was significantly up-regulated 2-fold during early T-cell activation in normal gravity, and gene expression was suppressed under microgravity. This was confirmed using quantitative real-time PCR (n = 4). This is the first report that spaceflight regulates miRNA expression. Global microarray analysis showed significant (P < 0.05) suppression of 85 genes under microgravity conditions compared to normal gravity samples. EGR3, FASLG, BTG2, SPRY2, and TAGAP are biologically confirmed targets and are co-up-regulated with miR-21. These genes share common promoter regions with pre-mir-21; as the miR-21 matures and accumulates, it most likely will inhibit translation of its target genes and limit the immune response. These data suggest that gravity regulates T-cell activation not only by transcription promotion but also by blocking translation via noncoding RNA mechanisms. Moreover, this study suggests that T-cell activation itself may induce a sequence of gene expressions that is self-limited by miR-21.
Increased postflight carotid artery stiffness and inflight insulin resistance resulting from 6-mo spaceflight in male and female astronauts
Removal of the normal head-to-foot gravity vector and chronic weightlessness during spaceflight might induce cardiovascular and metabolic adaptations related to changes in arterial pressure and reduction in physical activity. We tested hypotheses that stiffness of arteries located above the heart would be increased postflight, and that blood biomarkers inflight would be consistent with changes in vascular function. Possible sex differences in responses were explored in four male and four female astronauts who lived on the International Space Station for 6 mo. Carotid artery distensibility coefficient (P = 0.005) and beta-stiffness index (P = 0.006) reflected 17-30% increases in arterial stiffness when measured within 38 h of return to Earth compared with preflight. Spaceflight-by-sex interaction effects were found with greater changes in beta-stiffness index in women (P = 0.017), but greater changes in pulse wave transit time in men (P = 0.006). Several blood biomarkers were changed from preflight to inflight, including an increase in an index of insulin resistance (P < 0.001) with a spaceflight-by-sex term suggesting greater change in men (P = 0.034). Spaceflight-by-sex interactions for renin (P = 0.016) and aldosterone (P = 0.010) indicated greater increases in women than men. Six-month spaceflight caused increased arterial stiffness. Altered hydrostatic arterial pressure gradients as well as changes in insulin resistance and other biomarkers might have contributed to alterations in arterial properties, including sex differences between male and female astronauts.
INTRODUCTION: In this study we investigated the effects of microgravity on the fiber properties of the mouse triceps brachii, a forelimb muscle that has no antigravity function. METHODS: Mice (n = 7) were exposed to microgravity for 13 days on the space shuttle Atlantis (Space Transportation System-135). The fiber cross-sectional area (CSA) and succinate dehydrogenase (SDH) staining intensity of the triceps brachii muscle were compared with those of controls (n = 7). SDH activity in this muscle was also estimated. RESULTS: Microgravity did not affect the body weight, muscle weight, or fiber CSA, but there was reduced SDH staining intensity of all types of fibers, irrespective of the muscle region (P < 0.05). Microgravity also reduced muscle SDH activity (P < 0.05). CONCLUSIONS: Short-term exposure to microgravity induced a decrease in oxidative capacity, but not atrophy, in the triceps brachii muscle of mice.
Osteoporosis is a disease characterized by low bone mass and structural deterioration of bone tissue, leading to bone fragility and increased susceptibility to fractures. The microgravity of space creates an extreme environment that provides a model for osteoporosis in humans. This greatly accelerated form of osteopenia results in a 0.5-2% loss of bone mass per month. Rat models for this osteoporosis have been examined on many occasions, but STS-108 was the first Space Shuttle flight to use mice. Data reported to date indicate that spaceflight experiments with mice hold promise in predicting some spaceflight effects on humans. Due to the cost and infrequency of flights, ground-based models have been developed to mimic the deleterious effects of the microgravity environment. Hindlimb suspension is one such localized model. This model removes gravitational loading from the hindlimbs by suspending the animal by its tail to a guy wire that runs lengthwise across the cage. Because mice had not flown before STS-108, a direct comparison of this model’s ability to predict spaceflight results has not been examined. The objective of this research is to closely repeat the STS- 108 profile, with hindlimb suspension replacing spaceflight. This includes examining the ability of the protein osteoprotegerin, an osteoclast-inhibiting therapeutic, to mitigate the deleterious effects of skeletal unloading. It is expected that the results will lead to better understanding of the mechanisms of mineralization and bone remodeling to aid in development of countermeasures to prevent spaceflight induced osteoporosis and aid the treatment of osteoporosis here on earth.
Gravity is a constant unidirectional stimulus on Earth, and gravitropism in plants involves three phases: perception, transduction, and response. In shoots, perception takes place within the endodermis. To investigate the cellular machinery of perception in microgravity, we conducted a spaceflight study with Arabidopsis thaliana seedlings, which were grown in microgravity in darkness using the Biological Research in Canisters (BRIC) hardware during space shuttle mission STS-131. In the 14-day-old etiolated plants, we studied seedling development and the morphological parameters of the endodermal cells in the petiole. Seedlings from the spaceflight experiment (FL) were compared to a ground control (GC), which both were in the BRIC flight hardware. In addition, to assay any potential effects from growth in spaceflight hardware, we performed another control by growing seedlings in Petri dishes in standard laboratory conditions (termed the hardware control, HC). Seed germination was significantly lower in samples grown in flight hardware (FL, GC) compared to the HC. In terms of cellular parameters of endodermal cells, the greatest differences also were between seedlings grown in spaceflight hardware (FL, GC) compared to those grown outside of this hardware (HC). Specifically, the endodermal cells were significantly smaller in seedlings grown in the BRIC system compared to those in the HC. However, a change in the shape of the cell, suggesting alterations in the cell wall, was one parameter that appears to be a true microgravity effect. Taken together, our results suggest that caution must be taken when interpreting results from the increasingly utilized BRIC spaceflight hardware system and that it is important to perform additional ground controls to aid in the analysis of spaceflight experiments.
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency developed the mouse Habitat Cage Unit (HCU) for installation in the Cell Biology Experiment Facility (CBEF) onboard the Japanese Experimental Module (“Kibo”) on the International Space Station. The CBEF provides “space-based controls” by generating artificial gravity in the HCU through a centrifuge, enabling a comparison of the biological consequences of microgravity and artificial gravity of 1 g on mice housed in space. Therefore, prior to the space experiment, a ground-based study to validate the habitability of the HCU is necessary to conduct space experiments using the HCU in the CBEF. Here, we investigated the ground-based effect of a 32-day housing period in the HCU breadboard model on male mice in comparison with the control cage mice. Morphology of skeletal muscle, the thymus, heart, and kidney, and the sperm function showed no critical abnormalities between the control mice and HCU mice. Slight but significant changes caused by the HCU itself were observed, including decreased body weight, increased weights of the thymus and gastrocnemius, reduced thickness of cortical bone of the femur, and several gene expressions from 11 tissues. Results suggest that the HCU provides acceptable conditions for mouse phenotypic analysis using CBEF in space, as long as its characteristic features are considered. Thus, the HCU is a feasible device for future space experiments.
From swabs of surfaces of equipment and air samples of the Russian segment of the International Space Station, nine strains of spore-forming bacteria of the genus Bacillus belonging to the species B. pumilus, B. licheniformis, B. subtilis, B. megaterium, and B. amyloliquefaciens were isolated. The last species of bacilli on the equipment of RS ISS was detected for the first time. For these species of bacilli, there are known strains that can be opportunistic to humans, and their metabolites can cause biodegradation of equipment and materials. B. pumilus found on ISS belongs to the group of bacteria that exhibits a particularly high resistance to adverse environmental conditions, such as dehydration, ultraviolet and gamma radiation, and chemical disinfection.
The effect of microgravity on the in vitro NK cell function during six International Space Station Missions
The level of natural killer (NK) cytotoxic activity was measured during co-cultivation of human lymphocytes and target cells (K- 562) in microgravity. Flight experiments were carried out using special instrumentation, the “Fibroblast-1” cassettes, in the frame of Russian scientific program during six ISS missions. Lymphocyte suspensions from human venous blood were used in experiments during short-term flights on six ISS missions (7 –12). Russian space crew members performed the experiments after Soyuz docking. The first step was mixing lymphocytes and 3H-labeled K-562 cells and their incubation at 37°C during 24 hs; the second step was filtration of the cell suspension. The frozen medium and filters were analyzed for the cytokine level and cytotoxic activity after landing. It was found that lympho- cytes with different basal levels of cytotoxic activity kept the ability of recognizing and lysing malignant cells. In micrograv- ity, cytotoxity increased to 160% of the basal levels. Donor indi- vidual features modulated the magnitude of the increase. The measurement of interleukin levels (TNF-α, IL-1, IL-2) in medi- um showed that synthesis of TNF-α increased during cell co-cul- tivation in microgravity. The level of IL-2 was very low in flight and ground control samples. The production of IL-1 by lympho- cytes decreased after in-flight incubation. The results indicate that microgravity did not disturb the cytotoxic function of immune cells in vitro during 24 h incubation with specific target cells.
INTRODUCTION: Long-duration spaceflight missions lead to the loss of muscle strength and endurance. Significant reduction in muscle function can be hazardous when returning from spaceflight. To document these losses, NASA developed medical requirements that include measures of functional strength and endurance. Results from this Functional Fitness Test (FFT) battery are also used to evaluate the effectiveness of in-flight exercise countermeasures. The purpose of this paper is to document results from the FFT and correlate this information with performance of in-flight exercise on board the International Space Station. METHODS: The FFT evaluates muscular strength and endurance, flexibility, and agility and includes the following eight measures: sit and reach, cone agility, push-ups, pull-ups, sliding crunches, bench press, leg press, and hand grip dynamometry. Pre- to postflight functional fitness measurements were analyzed using dependent t-tests and correlation analyses were used to evaluate the relationship between functional fitness measurements and in-flight exercise workouts. RESULTS: Significant differences were noted post space flight with the sit and reach, cone agility, leg press, and hand grip measurements while other test scores were not significantly altered. The relationships between functional fitness and in-flight exercise measurements showed minimal to moderate correlations for most in-flight exercise training variables. DISCUSSION: The change in FFT results can be partially explained by in-flight exercise performance. Although there are losses documented in the FFT results, it is important to realize that the crewmembers are successfully performing activities of daily living and are considered functional for normal activities upon return to Earth.