Investigation of Microgravity Effects on Osteoblast Biomarkers Using a Novel Bioreactor

Principal Investigator:  Sathya Gangadharan, Ph.D, P.E., C.Mfg.E.

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University

In order to fulfill the vision of sending a man to Mars and returning him safely, many technical and physiological problems need to be addressed. The primary physiological deterrent to prolonged, manned exploration of the solar system is bone loss and muscle atrophy. A better understanding of the effects of microgravity on bone formation and resorption is required to adequately prepare man for extended spaceflight. This investigation makes use of a novel bioreactor that focuses on the identification of

mechanisms of action related to bone loss and demineralization in the microgravity environment. The broad objective of this proposal is to develop flight hardware and the accompanying procedures necessary for investigation of in vitro Osteoblast cell cultures in space. The proposed experiment will determine the efficacy of various nutritional and pharmaceutical countermeasures on the Osteoblast gene and protein expression of human fetal Osteoblast (hFOB) cell lines. Low Density microarrays will be used to measure gene expression levels. The arrays will be designed to examine the expression levels of 5- 10 genes associated with the Osteoblast differentiation, bone loss and/or osteoporosis. In addition to measuring the RNA expression levels, immunoassays will be used to examine qualitative effects on protein expression for 2-5 of the protein products from the gene expression studies. The Osteoblast cell cultures will be treated with 2-5 factors that are known to influence bone loss. Comparing ground and flight data for both RNA and protein expression in response to microgravity and drug treatment will provide evidence for the mechanisms of bone loss and possible therapeutic protocols. The result of the investigation will provide a basis for fundamental research into areas related to bone remodeling during deep space exploration and microgravity induced bone loss, as well as bone disuse degeneration and osteoporosis here on Earth.

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