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Tissue Engineered Skeletal Myofibers can Directly "Sense" Gravitational Force ChangesLong-term manned space flight requires a better understanding of skeletal muscle atrophy resulting from microgravity. Atrophy most likely results from changes at both the systemic level (e.g. decreased circulating growth hormone, increased circulating glucocorticoids) and locally (e.g. decreased myofiber resting tension). Differentiated skeletal myofibers in tissue culture have provided a model system over the last decade for gaining a better understanding of the interactions of exogenous growth factors, endogenous growth factors, and muscle fiber tension in regulating protein turnover rates and muscle cell growth. Tissue engineering these cells into three dimensional bioartificial muscle (BAM) constructs has allowed us to extend their use to Space flight studies for the potential future development of countermeasures. Embryonic avian muscle cells were isolated and BAMs tissue engineered as described previously. The myoblasts proliferate and fuse into aligned postmitotic myofibers after ten to fourteen days in vitro. A cylindrical muscle-like structure containing several thousand myofibers is formed which is approximately 30 mm in length, 2-3 mm in diameter, and attached at each end. For the Space Shuttle experiments, the BAMs were transferred to 55 mL bioreactor cartridges (6 BAMs/cartridge). At Kennedy Space Center, the cartridges were mounted in two Space Tissue Loss (STL) Modules (three to four cartridges per Module) and either maintained as ground controls or loaded in a Mid-Deck locker of the Space Shuttle. The BAM cartridges were continuously perfused during the experiment at 1.5 mL/ min with tissue culture medium. Eighteen BAMs were flown for nine days on Mission STS66 while eighteen BAMs served as ground controls. The complete experiment was repeated on Mission STS77 with twenty four BAMs in each group. BAMs could be maintained in a healthy state for at least 30 days in the perfusion bioreactor cartridges. The BAM muscle fibers directly detected both the loss of gravity and the reloading effects of 1 x g. While total cellular metabolism and total protein degradation rates were not altered during 9 to 10 days in Space, protein synthesis rates were significantly reduced and resulted in significant myofiber atrophy compared to ground controls. One g reloading of the flight muscle cells post-flight significantly increased protein synthesis rates and the synthesis rates of myosin heavy chain, fibronectin, and collagen. Tissue cultured muscle cells can directly "sense" changes in gravity and provide a valid model to begin the study of countermeasures. Based on our ground based experiments, and the experiments of others, growth hormone and/or insulin-like growth factors are attractive protein therapeutics which may assisting attenuating skeletal muscle wasting in space. Our laboratory is developing a new cell-based delivery system for this and other potential therapeutic factors for attenuating muscle and bone wasting.
Document ID
Document Type
Conference Paper
Vandenburgh, Herman H. (Brown Univ. Providence, RI United States)
Shansky, J. (Brown Univ. Providence, RI United States)
DelTatto, M. (Brown Univ. Providence, RI United States)
Lee, Peter (Brown Univ. Providence, RI United States)
Meir, J. (Brown Univ. Providence, RI United States)
Date Acquired
August 19, 2013
Publication Date
January 1, 1999
Publication Information
Publication: Cells in Spaceflight: Past, Present and Future
Subject Category
Life Sciences (General)
Funding Number(s)
Distribution Limits
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.

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IDRelationTitle19990089307Analytic PrimaryCells in Spaceflight: Past, Present and Future
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