A new study shows how microgravity alters human heart muscle cells in space, helping astronauts better prepare for long-term missions to Mars and beyond.
It is known that space flight affects the human body in a variety of ways. This includes physiological changes in cardiac function, such as decreased heart rate, decreased blood pressure and increased heart rate.
Using stem cell-derived human heart cells, researchers at Stanford University School of Medicine looked more closely at how microgravity affects human cardiac function and cell-level gene expression, a statement said.
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"Our study is new because it is the first to use human induced pluripotent cells to study the effects of space flight on human cardiac function, "said Joseph W. Wu, senior author of the study at Stanford University School of Medicine in a statement . Wu's team included NASA astronaut Kate Rubins, who graduated from Stanford before heading to cells in orbit.
In particular, the researchers used human-induced cardiomyocytes made from stem cells obtained by isolation and reprogramming of blood cells. it was then sent to the space station aboard the SpaceX cargo capsule the message said. The cells spend 5.5 weeks at the space station, while a control group of cells is examined simultaneously on Earth.
"Microgravity is an environment that is not well understood in terms of its overall effect on the human body," Wu said in a statement. "Studies like this could help shed light on how the cells of the body behave in space, especially as the world undertakes more and longer space missions, such as going to the moon and Mars."
When cells from the space station returned to Earth, the cells showed a normal structure but appeared to have changed their beating patterns and recycling patterns. on calcium. to adapt to the microgravity environment of space say the researchers.
The team also uses RNA sequencing to investigate gene expression in space-sent cells. Their findings show that 2635 genes were expressed at different rates during and after space flight compared to the ground control group, according to the statement.
In addition, researchers have found that gene pathways associated with mitochondrial function are more expressed in the group of cells sent to the space station. However, 10 days after returning to normal Earth gravity, relatively normal gene expression patterns reappear in the space flight of cells, researchers say.
"We are surprised at how quickly human heart cells are able to adapt to their environment, including microgravity," Wu said in a statement. "These studies can give an idea of the cellular mechanisms that could benefit the health of astronauts during a long space flight or potentially lay the groundwork for new knowledge to improve the health of the Earth's heart."  Their findings were published on November 7 in the journal Stem Cell Reports.