An experiment aboard the International Space Station looked at how cells change shape in microgravity and the ways those changes affect their function
People often talk about how important it is to stay in shape, something humans usually can accomplish with exercise and a healthy diet, and other habits. But chances are, few of us ever think about the shape of our individual cells.
An experiment aboard the International Space Station looked at how cells change shape in microgravity and the ways those changes affect their function. Cells have a cytoskeleton, a matrix of proteins that serve as a rigid structure for a cell much as our bones serve as a skeleton for our bodies.
The Cell Shape and Expression, or Cytospace, investigation examined how physical forces - including shear stress, stiffness, surface tension, and gravity - change the relationships among these proteins, interfering with cell architecture and changing the geometric form, or shape, of the cell. These changes in cell shape in turn affect certain signaling pathways in the cell and alter its patterns of gene expression.
"These cytoskeleton modifications enhance reframing of the cell shape and lead to significant changes in cell function and behavior," explains principal investigator Marco Vukich, Ph.D., with Kayser Italia in Italy. Shear stress in particular is known to cause several changes that can result in cell death and that affect cell division and permeability in addition to gene expression.
In microgravity, this series of events - a change in cytoskeleton structure leading to alteration of the cell shape and, then, biochemical and genetic changes in the cell - ultimately result in impairment of biological function and can even lead to disease.
Researchers suspect that microgravity can cause these changes in the cytoskeleton structure and subsequent gene-expression changes. If the research confirms this correlation, then it may be possible to address some of the negative effects of microgravity by stabilizing the cell cytoskeleton. For example, there may be drugs that could be used to counteract damage to cells caused by exposure to microgravity.
The cell cytoskeleton is involved in several human diseases here on Earth as well, including connective tissue diseases, cancer, and osteoporosis.
"Several human diseases are known to have a more or less dramatic involvement of the cytoskeleton," says co-investigator Alessandro Palombo, Ph.D., department of molecular and clinical medicine at Sapienza University of Rome. "Cytoskeleton changes are thought to play a pivotal role in orchestrating the cross-talk among cells and their microenvironment. Disrupting that cross-talk is likely to foster both cancer onset and its progression."
A better understanding of the relationship between cell shape and gene expression could advance development of drugs to treat these diseases, too.
For the investigation, breast cancer cells were cultured at normal gravity on the ground, in simulated microgravity on the ground, and in true microgravity aboard the space station. The cell cultures sent into space were returned to Earth for analysis.
Before long, astronauts and those of us here on Earth may be giving more thought to keeping our cells in shape, along with our bodies.
Rachel Hobson | EurekAlert!
Water forms 'spine of hydration' around DNA, group finds
26.05.2017 | Cornell University
How herpesviruses win the footrace against the immune system
26.05.2017 | Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung
Staphylococcus aureus is a feared pathogen (MRSA, multi-resistant S. aureus) due to frequent resistances against many antibiotics, especially in hospital infections. Researchers at the Paul-Ehrlich-Institut have identified immunological processes that prevent a successful immune response directed against the pathogenic agent. The delivery of bacterial proteins with RNA adjuvant or messenger RNA (mRNA) into immune cells allows the re-direction of the immune response towards an active defense against S. aureus. This could be of significant importance for the development of an effective vaccine. PLOS Pathogens has published these research results online on 25 May 2017.
Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) is a bacterium that colonizes by far more than half of the skin and the mucosa of adults, usually without causing infections....
Physicists from the University of Würzburg are capable of generating identical looking single light particles at the push of a button. Two new studies now demonstrate the potential this method holds.
The quantum computer has fuelled the imagination of scientists for decades: It is based on fundamentally different phenomena than a conventional computer....
An international team of physicists has monitored the scattering behaviour of electrons in a non-conducting material in real-time. Their insights could be beneficial for radiotherapy.
We can refer to electrons in non-conducting materials as ‘sluggish’. Typically, they remain fixed in a location, deep inside an atomic composite. It is hence...
Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.
Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...
An Australian-Chinese research team has created the world's thinnest hologram, paving the way towards the integration of 3D holography into everyday...
24.05.2017 | Event News
23.05.2017 | Event News
22.05.2017 | Event News
26.05.2017 | Life Sciences
26.05.2017 | Life Sciences
26.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy