As part of ESA Education's Hands-on programmes, 4 students from Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna and University of Pisa devised a cell biology experiment to investigate gravitational loading on human endothelial cells (ECs).
ECs line all our blood vessels and are responsible for important responses to stimuli from within and outside the body. When malfunctioning, they may cause pathological conditions such as bone loss, muscle atrophy, and impaired immune responses. Microgravity is known to cause health problems to astronauts. Interestingly, several such problems resemble those caused by sedentary life, ageing, or degenerative pathologies in the general population. Biomedical investigations aim to find common traits that could be useful to prevent and even treat disease both in astronauts and the general public. The students will use HMEC-1 exposed to specific hyper-g protocols and investigate genome expression, epigenetic genome modifications, and cell morphology. Based on current literature, they expect to observe variations in all these parameters, which would help them identify new pathways and mechanisms to address degenerative pathologies.