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: Osteoclasts/metabolism/*pathology
Mechanical unloading of bone in microgravity reduces mesenchymal and hematopoietic stem cell-mediated tissue regeneration
Mechanical loading of mammalian tissues is a potent promoter of tissue growth and regeneration, whilst unloading in microgravity can cause reduced tissue regeneration, possibly through effects on stem cell tissue progenitors. To test the specific hypothesis that mechanical unloading alters differentiation of bone marrow mesenchymal and hematopoietic stem cell lineages, we studied cellular and molecular aspects of how bone marrow in the mouse proximal femur responds to unloading in microgravity. Trabecular and cortical endosteal bone surfaces in the femoral head underwent significant bone resorption in microgravity, enlarging the marrow cavity. Cells isolated from the femoral head marrow compartment showed significant down-regulation of gene expression markers for early mesenchymal and hematopoietic differentiation, including FUT1(-6.72), CSF2(-3.30), CD90(-3.33), PTPRC(-2.79), and GDF15(-2.45), but not stem cell markers, such as SOX2. At the cellular level, in situ histological analysis revealed decreased megakaryocyte numbers whilst erythrocytes were increased 2.33 fold. Furthermore, erythrocytes displayed elevated fucosylation and clustering adjacent to sinuses forming the marrow-blood barrier, possibly providing a mechanistic basis for explaining spaceflight anemia. Culture of isolated bone marrow cells immediately after microgravity exposure increased the marrow progenitor’s potential for mesenchymal differentiation into in-vitro mineralized bone nodules, and hematopoietic differentiation into osteoclasts, suggesting an accumulation of undifferentiated progenitors during exposure to microgravity. These results support the idea that mechanical unloading of mammalian tissues in microgravity is a strong inhibitor of tissue growth and regeneration mechanisms, acting at the level of early mesenchymal and hematopoietic stem cell differentiation.