Bone Cell Signaling in Parabolic Flight
Elisa Barney Smith
Osteocytes integrate mechanical information into chemical signals relayed to osteoclast and osteoblast cell populations. In effect, these signals orchestrate bone resorption and formation by the osteoclasts and osteoblasts, respectively. While these activities are essential for the maintenance of healthy bone, imbalances in these processes by exposure to extreme environments, such as microgravity, are hypothesized to lead to highly detrimental bone loss. Changes in free calcium concentration, known as calcium flux, is an intermediate step in the chemical signaling processes of the osteoctyes. To determine how environments of continually alternating forces affect the bones of the human body, it is important to study how those environments affect calcium flux. To this end, this experiment examines how osteocyte and osteoblast mono- and co-cultures respond to the periods of micro-and hyper-gravity experienced onboard NASA’s Weightless Wonder. Calcium flux will be fluorescently monitored through the use of a lens and imaging-based system which will monitor a 96-well microtiter plate containing the cell cultures. From a previous study by the 2010-2011 BSU Microgravity University team, it is expected that cellular calcium concentrations will increase during periods of hyper-gravity and decrease during periods of microgravity.