The New York Stem Cell Foundation (NYSCF) Research Institute and Aspen Neuroscience will send three-dimensional brain cell models of primary progressive multiple sclerosis (PPMS) and Parkinson’s disease to the International Space Station (ISS) for the first long-term study of how these cells behave when exposed to microgravity.
The biological samples will be sent to the ISS on the SpaceX CRS-19 today (Dec. 5) from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. The research collaboration, funded by the National Stem Cell Foundation (NSCF), already performed a successful 30-day test space flight in July.
“Supporting this collaboration between world-class research teams during a time of explosive growth in our understanding of the research advances possible in space is a great privilege. We are delighted to be funding such innovative science at the frontier of new drug and cell therapy discovery,” Paula Grisanti, CEO of NSCF, said in a press release.
The study will assess for the first time how 3D aggregates of nerve cells, called organoids, from patients with Parkinson’s and PPMS behave when cultured in space over long periods of time.
The organoids were created by extracting skin cells from people with these diseases, and changing their genetic programming to create patient-derived induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), which were later transformed into nerve cells.
The models contain neurons and microglia cells, which support and protect neurons, but also are implicated in the inflammatory process that drives Parkinson’s disease, MS, and other neurodegenerative diseases.
Changes in forces such as gravity can change how cells interact with each other and form tissues. So, investigating how patient-derived cells interact and control gene expression — the process by which information in a gene is synthesized to create a working product, such as a protein — under microgravity conditions (the near absence of gravity) could give new insights into the process of neurodegeneration.
The study also will help scientists understand how space flight affects the neurons and nerve systems of astronauts.
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