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: *Osteoblasts
Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are multipotent progenitor cells with the ability to differentiate into osteoblasts, chondroblasts, myocytes, and adipocytes. They have potential for bone tissue engineering by the utilization of in vitro expanded cells with osteogenic capacity and their delivery to the appropriate sites via biomaterial scaffolds. The objective was to evaluate the potential of rat bone marrow MSCs to form 3D bone-like tissue by the use of mineralized poly(DL-lactic-co-glycolic acid) (PLGA) foam and osteoinductive medium under rotating culture conditions. PLGA foams were prepared by solvent casting and particulate leaching, then mineralized by incubating in simulated body fluid. MSCs isolated from the bone marrow of young Wistar rats were expanded and seeded on the mineralized scaffolds. The cell-polymer constructs were then cultured in a slow turning lateral vessel-type rotating bioreactor for 4 weeks under the effect of osteogenic inducers, b-glycerophosphate, ascorbic acid and dexamethasone. Mineralization was evaluated using FT-IR and increases in dry mass; morphology changes of the mineralized foams and cell adhesion was characterized by SEM; cell viability was monitored by MTT (3-(4,5-dimethylthia-zol-2-yl-2,5-diphenyl tetrazolium bromide). Osteogenic differentiation was determined by using immunohistochemistry (anti-Osteopontin). Results indicate the feasibility of bone tissue engineering with MSCs and mineralized PLGA scaffolds supporting cell adhesion, viability and osteogenic differentiation properties of cells in hybrid structures under appropriate bioreactor conditions.
Effect of simulated weightlessness on osteoprogenitor cell number and proliferation in young and adult rats
Experiments with rats flown in space or hind limb unloaded (HU) indicate that bone loss in both conditions is associated with a decrease in bone volume and osteoblast surface in cancellous and cortical bone. We hypothesize that the decrease in osteoblastic bone formation and osteoblast surface is related to a decrease in the number of osteoprogenitors and/or decreased proliferation of their progeny. We tested this hypothesis by evaluating the effect of 14 days of HU on the number of osteoprogenitors (osteoblast colony forming units; CFU-O), fibroblastic colony forming units (CFU-F), and alkaline phosphatase-positive CFU (CFU-AP) in cell populations derived from the proximal femur (unloaded) and the proximal humerus (normally loaded) in 6-week-old and 6-month-old rats. To confirm the effect of unloading on bone volume and structure, static histomorphometric parameters were measured in the proximal tibial metaphysis. Effects of HU on proliferation of osteoprogenitors were evaluated by measuring the size of CFU-O. HU did not affect the total number of progenitors (CFU-F) in young or adult rats in any of the cell populations. In femoral populations of young rats, HU decreased CFU-O by 71.0% and mean colony size was reduced by 20%. HU decreased CFU-AP by 31.3%. As expected, no changes in CFU-O or CFU-AP were seen in cell populations from the humerus. In femoral cell populations of adult rats, HU decreased CFU-O and CFU-AP by 16.6% and 36.6%, respectively. Again, no effects were seen in cell populations from the humerus. In 6-week-old rats, there was a greater decrease in bone volume, osteoblast number, and osteoblast surface in the proximal tibial metaphysis than that observed in adult rats. Both trabecular thickness and trabecular number were decreased in young rats but remained unaffected in adults. Neither osteoclast number nor surface was affected by unloading. Our results show that the HU-induced decrease in the number of osteoprogenitors observed in vitro parallels the effects of HU on bone volume and osteoblast number in young and old rats in vivo, suggesting that the two may be interdependent. HU also reduced CFU-O colony size in femoral populations indicating a diminished proliferative capacity of osteoblastic colonies.