Emory researchers teamed up with NASA to test heart cells in microgravity

researchers in Emory University School of Medicine and Children’s Healthcare in Atlanta are working with NASA to experiment with heart cells on the International Space Station. search temptation To test whether microgravity, or the condition Where persons or things appear to be weightless, Accelerates the growth of heart cells to generate better cells for heart disease research.

The research study was led by Chunhui Xu, professor in the Department of Pediatrics at the College of Medicine and director of myocardial stem cell. laboratoryand Kevin Maher, MD, professor of pediatrics at the College of Medicine and director of the cardiac intensive care unit at Children’s Care Atlanta.

NASA astronauts performed the experiment while aboard the SpaceX-20 mission in March 2020. While aboard the mission, turning off The cells became beating heart cells, proving her theory correct.

Xu hopes to broaden her research by investigating the molecular targets of microgravity that regulate the growth of heart stem cells. Through the space experiment, Xu wants to develop new technologies for treating heart disease that promote the use of muscle cells derived from stem cells.

Emory University School of Medicine researchers conducted experiments with heart cells on the International Space Station. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Although damaged heart muscle cells cannot regenerate, muscle cells derived from stem cells can replace damaged cells in heart patients. The International Space Station National Laboratory allowed Xu and her team to test their hypothesis in a real space environment.

“During the study, we developed new techniques including cryopreservation of micro-3D heart tissue that could be used in future space experiments in the wider region,” Xu wrote in an email to Wheel. “We were able to collaborate with experts in space experiments from our implementing partner, the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space.”

Before releasing the stem cells to the space station, Xu and Mader used Space simulation machines to enhance the transformation of pluripotent or immature stem cells into cardiomyocytes. Microgravity has been a major point of research as previous studies Suggest That’s microgravity Increases the efficiency of stem cell culture production. the growth The rate of stem cells is faster under microgravity conditions, which alters physiological functions such as regeneration.

Xu stated that the increased rate of heart cell growth pushes the cells inwards maturity So they behave like adult cells. Reaching heart cell maturity is a key part of heart disease research — by increasing the growth rate of heart cells, scientists can Monitor the harmful effects of aging, eg dropped The ability to regenerate and increase cellular death.

Gravity affects the production of the molecule in cells, for example by increasing or decreasing the amount of proteins made or how they are produced, according to Xu. Structural changes affect cell properties, such as the growth of muscle cells.

In our terrestrial study, we used a random positioning machine to study how microgravity simulation affects the ability of cardiac stem cells to transform into cardiomyocytes. “Under simulated microgravity, cardiac stem cells produce a significantly greater number of beating heart cells than when the stem cells were grown in standard gravity.”

The random positioning machine creates a simulated microgravity environment by rotating biological samples at random speeds and directions. Xu said that the continuous motion of the gravitational vector averages the vector to zero. While the random positioning machine is resource efficient, this machine only provides an approximation of the microgravity environment since gravitational forces are still acting under simulated microgravity.

Physics lecturer Alyssa Bans highlighted that the intersection of medicine and astronomy is a very important field of study. by observing how The harsh environment of space affects the human body, so scientists can not only learn more about creating a safer environment for astronauts but also apply their findings on Earth, Pance wrote in an email to Wheel.

We can learn new things about the body by seeing how it adapts and reacts to different conditions…and nothing is quite different from the conditions of space,” Pance wrote.

Julia Laszcz

Office of Science and Research | Julia Laskes (24C) is from Bergen County, New Jersey, and majors in Neuroscience, Behavioral Biology, and English. Off the Wheel, Laszcz is a writer for Gray Matters. Laszcz is also a volunteer for her home town’s ambulance company. She loves to cook new recipes and play with her dog.

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