Seeking a better understanding of how space travel changes human heart cells

| November 22, 2019
space
NASA astronaut Kate Rubins studied heart cells on the International Space Station. Image: NASA
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A team of researchers led by Joseph Wu, the director of the Stanford Cardiovascular Institute, recently sent cardiomyocytes made from human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) up to the International Space Station with astronauts in order to study changes in the cells. Through RNA sequencing, they found that many genes in the cells were expressed differently than ones that did not go into space, including genes for mitochondria metabolism. Their results were published in Stem Cell Reports [November 7].

The study is a starting point for understanding the genetic basis of the heart alterations astronauts experience. “One of the biggest changes that the cardiovascular system sees in spaceflight is the redistribution of blood, because there isn’t gravity pulling blood down to your feet,” Alexa Wnorowski, a graduate student in Wu’s lab, tells The Scientist.

Related article:  Deep space travelers could face 'significant' gastrointestinal damage from radiation

In the future, the lab plans to send 3D stem cell–derived heart tissue structures with multiple cell types into space. The study published [November 7] “is just a baby step in terms of trying to understand the biology, especially in the cardiac system, of microgravity space travel,” Wu tells The Scientist.

Read full, original post: Spaceflight Alters Genes of Human Stem Cell–Derived Heart Cells

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