Understanding our cells in microgravity

14 August 2019
Drs Andrew Laslett from CSIRO and Harald Janovjak from the Australian Regenerative Medical Institute were recently awarded funding from CSIRO’s Space Technology Future Science Platform to study the effects of microgravity on human cells. 

The collaborative team will use the funding to set up a proof-of-concept study, which aims to understand the effects of microgravity on different cell types, as well as the signalling pathways within those cells. 

The lab will include a random positioning machine that simulates different gravity conditions and, using pluripotent stem cells generated from the Laslett Lab, look at the effects on many different cells types in real time. They are initially focussing on osteoblast, bone growing cells.

Andrew and Harald hope that the results will inform not only the effect of microgravity on humans during space travel or missions, but also reveal what happens to patients during long-term bed rest or during sarcopenia, the degenerative loss of skeletal muscle mass, quality, and strength associated with aging.

Looking to the future, Andrew and Harald are also interested in understanding the effects of microgravity on bone growth as well as use synthetic biology as a tool to understand which cellular signals to turn on in the body, to help augment the body during space travel. 

Dr Harald Janovjak is a Chief Investigator with Stem Cells Australia; Dr Andrew Laslett is an Affiliate Investigator.