Microgravity and bone cell mechanosensitivity: FLOW experiment during the DELTA mission

R.G. Bacabac, J.J.W.A. van Loon, J.M.A. de Blieck-Hogervorst, C.M. Semeins, B. Zandieh-Doulabi, M.N. Helder, T.H. Smit, J. Klein-Nulend

    Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademic


    The catabolic effects of microgravity on mineral metabolism in bone organ cultures might be explained as resulting from an exceptional form of disuse. It is possible that the mechanosensitivity of bone cells is altered under near weightlessness conditions, which likely contributes to disturbed bone metabolism observed in astronauts. In the experiment “FLOW”, we tested whether the production of early signaling molecules that are involved in the mechanical load-induced osteogenic response by bone cells is changed under microgravity conditions. FLOW was one of the Biological experiment entries to the Dutch Soyuz Mission “DELTA” (Dutch Expedition for Life Science, Technology and Atmospheric Research). FLOW was flown by the Soyuz craft, launched on April 19, 2004, on its way to the International Space Station. Primary osteocytes, osteoblasts, and periosteal fibroblasts were incubated in plunger boxes, developed by Centre for Concepts in Mechatronics, using plunger activation events for single pulse fluid shear stress stimulations. Due to unforeseen hardware complications, results from in-flight cultures are considered lost. Ground control experiments showed an accumulative increase of NO in medium for osteocytes (as well as for osteoblasts and periosteal fibroblasts). Data from the online-NO sensor showed that the NO produced in medium by osteocytes increased sharply after pulse shear stress stimulations. COX-2 mRNA expression revealed high levels in osteoblasts compared to the other cell types tested. In conclusion, preparations for the FLOW experiment and preliminary ground results indicate that the FLOW setup is viable for a future flight opportunity.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)133-137
    JournalMicrogravity Science and Technology
    Issue number5-6
    Publication statusPublished - 2007


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