• Thu. Sep 21st, 2023

News Eyeo

All Important News

Potential of Artificial Compounds for Counteracting Bone Loss in Space


Sep 18, 2023

A new study led by an interdisciplinary team of professors from UCLA and the Forsyth Institute has found a potential treatment for the bone loss caused by long-term space travel. The study, published in the Nature Partner Journal, npj Microgravity, focuses on an artificial compound called NELL-like molecule-1 (NELL-1) and its ability to prevent bone loss in mice on the International Space Station (ISS). Microgravity-induced bone loss has long been a concern for astronauts on long-duration space missions, as it can occur up to 12 times faster than on Earth. Current strategies to mitigate bone loss rely on exercise, but they are not perfect for crews spending extended periods in microgravity.

The researchers, led by Dr. Chia Soo from UCLA, investigated the systemic delivery of NELL-1 to the ISS to prevent bone loss. NELL-1, discovered by Dr. Kang Ting at the Forsyth Institute, is essential for bone development and density maintenance. Previous studies have shown that local delivery of NELL-1 can regenerate musculoskeletal tissues. To administer NELL-1 systemically, the team extended the molecule’s half-life without losing biological activity by conjugating it with bisphosphonate (BP). The modified molecule, called BP-NELL-PEG, was found to specifically target bone tissue without causing any visible side effects.

To test the efficacy of BP-NELL-PEG in real space conditions, the researchers collaborated with the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) and NASA. Mice on the ISS were exposed to a microgravity environment for 9 weeks, simulating long-duration space travel. The mice were treated with either BP-NELL-PEG or a control. The researchers found that mice treated with BP-NELL-PEG showed a significant increase in bone formation without any adverse health effects.

The potential of BP-NELL-PEG for future space missions and its applications on Earth are promising. The compound could be an effective treatment for bone loss and musculoskeletal degeneration when traditional strength training is not feasible. The research team is now analyzing the data from the live animal return to gain further insights into how to help astronauts recover from long space missions. The study was supported by grants from CASIS and the National Institutes of Health, as well as additional funding and support from various organizations.

By Editor

Leave a Reply