Due to spaceflight, astronauts experience serious, weightlessness-induced bone loss because of an unbalanced process of bone remodeling that involves bone marrow mes- enchymal stem cells (BMSCs), as well as osteoblasts, osteo- cytes, and osteoclasts. The effects of microgravity on osteo- cells have been extensively studied, but it is only recently that consideration has been given to the role of BMSCs. Pre- vious researches indicated that human BMSCs cultured in simulated microgravity (sim-μg) alter their proliferation and differentiation. The spaceflight opportunities for biomedical experiments are rare and suffer from a number of opera- tive constraints that could bias the validity of the experiment itself, but remain a unique opportunity to confirm and explain the effects due to microgravity, that are only par- tially activated/detectable in simulated conditions. For this reason, we carefully prepared the SCD – STEM CELLS DIFFERENTIATION experiment, selected by the European Space Agency (ESA) and now on the International Space Station (ISS). Here we present the preparatory studies per- formed on ground to adapt the project to the spaceflight constraints in terms of culture conditions, fixation and stor- age of human BMSCs in space aiming at satisfying the biological requirements mandatory to retrieve suitable sam- ples for post-flight analyses. We expect to understand better the molecular mechanisms governing human BMSC growth and differentiation hoping to outline new countermeasures against astronaut bone loss.
Research Containing: Aging/physiology
Abstract: Hackney, KJ, Scott, JM, Hanson, AM, English, KL, Downs, ME, and Ploutz-Snyder, LL. The astronaut-athlete: optimizing human performance in space. J Strength Cond Res 29(12): 3531–3545, 2015—It is well known that long-duration spaceflight results in deconditioning of neuromuscular and cardiovascular systems, leading to a decline in physical fitness. On reloading in gravitational environments, reduced fitness (e.g., aerobic capacity, muscular strength, and endurance) could impair human performance, mission success, and crew safety. The level of fitness necessary for the performance of routine and off-nominal terrestrial mission tasks remains an unanswered and pressing question for scientists and flight physicians. To mitigate fitness loss during spaceflight, resistance and aerobic exercise are the most effective countermeasure available to astronauts. Currently, 2.5 h·d−1, 6–7 d·wk−1 is allotted in crew schedules for exercise to be performed on highly specialized hardware on the International Space Station (ISS). Exercise hardware provides up to 273 kg of loading capability for resistance exercise, treadmill speeds between 0.44 and 5.5 m·s−1, and cycle workloads from 0 and 350 W. Compared to ISS missions, future missions beyond low earth orbit will likely be accomplished with less vehicle volume and power allocated for exercise hardware. Concomitant factors, such as diet and age, will also affect the physiologic responses to exercise training (e.g., anabolic resistance) in the space environment. Research into the potential optimization of exercise countermeasures through use of dietary supplementation, and pharmaceuticals may assist in reducing physiological deconditioning during long-duration spaceflight and have the potential to enhance performance of occupationally related astronaut tasks (e.g., extravehicular activity, habitat construction, equipment repairs, planetary exploration, and emergency response).
Simulated Microgravity Exerts an Age-Dependent Effect on the Differentiation of Cardiovascular Progenitors Isolated from the Human Heart
Microgravity has a profound effect on cardiovascular function, however, little is known about the impact of microgravity on progenitors that reside within the heart. We investigated the effect of simulated microgravity exposure on progenitors isolated from the neonatal and adult human heart by quantifying changes in functional parameters, gene expression and protein levels after 6-7 days of 2D clinorotation. Utilization of neonatal and adult cardiovascular progenitors in ground-based studies has provided novel insight into how microgravity may affect cells differently depending on age. Simulated microgravity exposure did not impact AKT or ERK phosphorylation levels and did not influence cell migration, but elevated transcripts for paracrine factors were identified in neonatal and adult cardiovascular progenitors. Age-dependent responses surfaced when comparing the impact of microgravity on differentiation. Endothelial cell tube formation was unchanged or increased in progenitors from adults whereas neonatal cardiovascular progenitors showed a decline in tube formation (p<0.05). Von Willebrand Factor, an endothelial differentiation marker, and MLC2v and Troponin T, markers for cardiomyogenic differentiation, were elevated in expression in adult progenitors after simulated microgravity. DNA repair genes and telomerase reverse transcriptase which are highly expressed in early stem cells were increased in expression in neonatal but not adult cardiac progenitors after growth under simulated microgravity conditions. Neonatal cardiac progenitors demonstrated higher levels of MESP1, OCT4, and brachyury, markers for early stem cells. MicroRNA profiling was used to further investigate the impact of simulated microgravity on cardiovascular progenitors. Fifteen microRNAs were significantly altered in expression, including microRNAs-99a and 100 (which play a critical role in cell dedifferentiation). These microRNAs were unchanged in adult cardiac progenitors. The effect of exposure to simulated microgravity in cardiovascular progenitors is age-dependent. Adult cardiac progenitors showed elevated expression of markers for endothelial and cardiomyogenic differentiation whereas neonatal progenitors acquired characteristics of dedifferentiating cells.
Altered gravity affects ventral root activity during fictive swimming and the static vestibuloocular reflex in young tadpoles (Xenopus laevis)
During early periods of life, modifications of the gravitational environment affect the development of sensory, neuronal and motor systems. The vestibular system exerts significant effects on motor networks that control eye and body posture as well as swimming. The objective of the present study was to study whether altered gravity (AG) affects vestibuloocular and spinal motor systems in a correlated manner. During the French Soyuz taxi flight Andromede to the International Space Station ISS (launch: October 21, 2001; landing: October 31, 2001) Xenopus laevis embryos were exposed for 10 days to microgravity (microg). In addition, a similar experiment with 3g-hypergravity (3g) was performed in the laboratory. At onset of AG, embryos had reached developmental stages 24 to 27. After exposure to AG, each tadpole was tested for its roll-induced vestibuloocular reflex (rVOR) and 3 hours later it was tested for the neuronal activity recorded from the ventral roots (VR) during fictive swimming. During the post-AG recording periods tadpoles had reached developmental stages 45 to 47. It was observed that microgravity affected VR activity during fictive swimming and rVOR. In particular, VR activity changes included a significant decrease of the rostrocaudal delay and a significant increase of episode duration. The rVOR-amplitude was transiently depressed. Hypergravity was less effective on the locomotor pattern; occurring effects on fictive swimming were the opposite of microg effects. As after microgravity, the rVOR was depressed after 3g-exposure. All modifications of the rVOR and VR-activity recovered to normal levels within 4 to 7 days after termination of AG. Significant correlations between the rVOR amplitude and VR activity of respective tadpoles during the recording period have been observed in both tadpoles with or without AG experience. The data are consistent with the assumptions that during this period of life which is characterized by a progressive development of vestibuloocular and vestibulospinal projections (i) microgravity retards the development of VR activity while hypergravity weakly accelerates it; (ii) that microgravity retards the rVOR development while hypergravity caused a sensitization, and that (iii) AG-induced changes of VR activity during fictive swimming have a vestibular origin.