Components of human endothelial cells stained for identification. In red is the ‘actin’ protein that allows the cells to move, adhere, divide and react to stimuli. In blue are the cell nuclei containing DNA.
The endothelial cells spent seven days in a random positioning machine, a device that simulates microgravity on Earth.
The Spheroids experiment looked at how the cells that form the inner layer of our blood vessels – the endothelial cells – react to microgravity on the International Space Station.Endothelial cells control the contraction and expansion of our blood vessels, regulating blood flow to our organs and blood pressure.
Blood flow changes in space because gravity no longer pulls blood towards astronauts’ feet. By understanding the underlying adaptive mechanisms of how our bodies respond to weightlessness, this experiment aims to develop methods to help astronauts in space while showing possibilities for people on Earth – our endothelial cells become less effective with age – to live longer and healthier lives.