As part of ESA Education's Hands-on programmes, 4 students from Italian Institute of Technology, Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna and University of Pisa, devised a cell biology experiment to investigate 'oxidative stress'.
Oxidative stress in cells and organisms is strictly related to an increase of intracellular reactive oxygen species (ROS) levels. Potentially damaging biomolecules such as unsaturated fatty acids, proteins, nucleic acids, carbohydrates, etc. Oxidative stress has been recognised to be associated with a variety of pathological conditions, including cancer and neurodegenerative diseases.
Living organisms are provided with a variety of antioxidant defences to counterbalance ROS production. In pathological conditions characterised by an imbalance between ROS production and inactivation, a pharmacological supply of antioxidants is often required. This supply has to be continuous, as most of these molecules are chemically unstable and present short half-life in vivo.
The use of nanomaterials with redox-reactive properties, such as cerium oxide nanoparticles (nanoceria), is gaining interest due to nanoceria's self-regenerating capability as free radical scavengers, and owing to their features mimicking both superoxide dismutase and catalase activities. In this Spin Your Thesis experiment, we aim to assess the ability of nanoceria to protect a living organism, the planarian Dugesia japonica, from the oxidative stress induced by exposure to simulated hypergravity.
The effects of different levels of hypergravity on DNA integrity, cell survival and antioxidant enzyme activity will be assessed in both control and nanoceria-treated animals.