Scientists find a way to prevent bone loss in space

Scientists have described the substance NELL-1, which, when injected into the body, leads to the restoration of bone tissue lost as a result of weightlessness. This is one of the most important health problems that will happen to astronauts. The researchers tested their assumptions on mice.

Astronauts on the ISS are losing bone tissue. Source:

Astronauts lose bone tissue

The authors of a recent publication claim that they have found a way to cope with the loss of bone mass during a prolonged stay in weightlessness. Its authors are researchers from a number of American universities.

The fact that during a long stay in space, the mass of bone tissue decreases due to reduced loads has been known for a long time. This is one of the problems that prevent people from staying in orbit for a really long time. The bones of astronauts become too fragile, and this increases the risk of fractures both during the flight and at its end.

Scientists suggest using a synthetic protein molecule called NELL-1 to combat this. Numerous studies conducted on earth show that if you inject it directly into damaged bone tissues, they begin to regenerate rapidly.

Experiments on mice 

The problem with NELL-1 is that this molecule loses bioactivity in just a few hours. Therefore, it will not be possible to store it for a long time on the International Space Station. It is necessary to inject as soon as the cargo spacecraft arrives. And this means that there should be a lot of effective substances in them, which can cause side effects.

To avoid this, scientists combined it with bisphosphonate and obtained a modified product called BP-NELL-PEG. Laboratory studies on Earth have shown that it can provide specificity to bone tissue without affecting other organs.

However, an experiment on living beings was needed to finally prove its effectiveness. And it was indeed conducted on mice. Two groups of these mammals were launched into space for this purpose. One of them was in orbit for 4.5 weeks, and the second — as many as nine. Each of them was divided into two parts: in one, these mice were given BP-NELL-PEG, and in the other, a control solution of bisphosphonate.

Two groups of mice similar in composition remained on the Earth as control mice and received the same set of drugs. Studies showed that mice from both groups who were given BP-NELL-PEG showed significantly better bone regeneration compared to those who received placebo. At the same time, both the rodents that flew into space and those that remained on Earth showed no signs of side effects.

According to

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