A new batch of stem cells will be sent into space

Scientists want to study how weightlessness affects stem cells and therefore send them into space again. This research is extremely important for long-term flights, during which astronauts lose bone mass.

Experiments with cells. Source: www.technologyreview.com

How space affects bones

A Mayo Clinic research experiment will be part of a payload that will launch into space from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, Florida, on January 29, subject to weather conditions and other factors. A team of scientists from Dr. Abba Zubair’s laboratory is preparing stem cells for flight to test how the absence of gravity affects bone loss. 

“We’ve known for some time that astronauts lose bone density on long-duration space flights,” says Dr. Zubair, a specialist in laboratory medicine and pathology at the Mayo Clinic in Florida. Scientists want to understand how this happens in order to work on solutions that prevent bone loss not only in astronauts in space, but also in patients on Earth. 

The research project will study the effects of gravity on the type of stem cells derived from bone marrow, known as mesenchymal stem cells, or adult stem cells with growth factors and potential for healing.

Previous research

The study will be conducted during two space flights. During the first space flight, the effect of microgravity on bone-forming stem cells will be evaluated. The second space flight is provisionally scheduled for the end of the year, during which the effect of microgravity on other types of cells involved in the formation or loss of bone tissue will be analyzed. A compound that can be used to treat bone loss in space and possibly on Earth will be tested.

The first research in space took place back in 2017, when a payload with several samples of donor stem cells launched from the Kennedy Space Center. As part of this trial, it was investigated whether stem cells could stay in space and whether they could be mass-produced faster in microgravity for use in the treatment of strokes. A further research experiment in space has shown that stem cells grown in zero gravity are safe and suitable for use in the treatment of human diseases.

The Mayo Clinic is partnering with Bioserve Space Technologies in Boulder, Colorado, which provides space equipment for the research project.

According to phys.org

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