Results of a space experiment published online in The FASEB Journal have yielded a giant leap for science that could translate into an important step for mankind in the ongoing battle against osteoporosis. In the report, a team of Italian scientists show for the first time that a lack of resistance (i.e., gravity) activates bone-destroying cells.
This outcome helps explain more completely why bedridden patients and astronauts experience bone loss and provides an entirely new drug target for stopping the process.
"This study cuts straight to the bone in terms of why our skeletons deteriorate with disuse," said Gerald Weissmann, M.D., Editor-in-Chief of The FASEB Journal. "As is the case with human intelligence, bone loss is an example of 'use it or lose it.' This study from space has pinpointed the cellular culprits that destroy our bones when we don't use them to support weight."
Using two sets of bone-destroying cells, called "osteoclasts," obtained from the bone marrow of mice femurs, the scientists launched one set into space via the European Space Agency's 2007 FOTON-M3 mission and kept the other set on Earth. On the satellite, the cells were maintained in custom-designed bioreactors equipped with automatic nutrient providers. At the same time, the other set of cells were kept in the same type of bioreactors on the Earth's surface. After twelve days, the experiment was stopped and the cells were examined. The analysis revealed an increase in genes involved in osteoclast maturation and activity, as well as increased bone loss when compared to the cells on Earth.
"Space might be the final frontier, but we've got some serious hurdles to clear before we conquer microgravity, and bone loss is one of them," Weissmann added. "Even here on Earth, we all face bone loss. Osteoporosis inexorably hits men and women alike, and this European study points to one cause: lack of resistance."
According to NASA, an astronaut could lose as much as 10 to 15 percent of pre-flight bone mass after only six months in space. The National Osteoporosis Foundation reports that at least 25 million people in the United States suffer from bone loss.
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Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.
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Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.
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Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!
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For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.
Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...
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