Earth is great and all, but with climate change and the extremely highly likely reemergence of dinosaurs due to genetic engineering, we might need to consider inhabiting other planets. Sending out a pioneering colony of carefully-selected humansis today science fiction but, someday, it might save our species.And, if we ever actually docolonize space, were going to need to have babies up there, which might turn out to be more complicated than it is on Earth.
Im not concerned about the actual baby making part we can figure that out with practice. The part thats tricky is the fine-tuned and carefully orchestrated process of human development, particularly in the brain. Cells in microgravity dont grow exactly like cells on Earth, and a whole bunch of them in a developing babys brain may not grow exactly the same either.
Thankfully, there's a researcher for that. UC San Diego scientist Alysson Muotri is usingblossoming clumps of brain cells called brain organoids to understand how neurons proliferate, form synapses, and communicate but in space.
NASA/ESA and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA) on Wikimedia Commons
In late July, Muotri and his team sent a bunch of organoids to the International Space Station. Previous research has documented the proliferation of HeLA cells, cancer cells, bone cells and more, but there is limited information about the gravity-free growth of early brain cells, known as neural progenitor cells, or brain organoids. Such organoids have proven to be a useful model for understanding brain development, so understanding how they develop in the microgravity of space could demonstrate the ways in which human brain development might be affected if we ever become a space-faring society.
Muotri has long been intrigued by research in space, especially the NASA twins study. A while ago, he half-seriously talked about the idea of doing his own biology space study with one of his collaborators, but nothing quite came of it. He dreamed of sending organoids to space, but didn't know if it was possible.Once he met an engineer who convinced him it was feasible to actually build a device to keep organoids alive in space, he decided it was time for takeoff.
Still, he had some trouble selling others, particularly granting organizations, on the idea. Hes funding the project out of his own salary savings and gifts to the lab, with the hope that his first wave of findings will draw attention to his work and convince funding agencies that his research is valuable.
Backed by his own money, the first task was figuring out how to keep the organoids healthyat the International Space Station.
Even on Earth, the organoids require a lot of care to ensure that they are at the proper temperature and growing conditions. For one, they're kept in a shaker so that they are constantly suspended in a solution, without anchoring down to anything (though that won't be a problem in microgravity).Butlike living cells in a body, organoids require nutrients, and they also spit out waste. To support these processes, their solutions need to be changed,andthe temperature and pH needs to be carefully maintained, like fish in a tank. Organoids require a lot of babysitting, and Muotri simply cant expect the astronauts to spend as much time caring for his cells as he and his students do back on Earth.
Alysson Muotri shows off the Space Tango
So, he collaborated withan engineering team from Kentucky that specializes in sending biological material into space.They developed a shiny red box called the Space Tango CubeLab.
Space Tango may sound like a bad 80s science fiction film starring Antonio Banderas, butit's actually the name of the company, and the productsthey make are so much cooler than '80s sci-fi. The "CubeLab" essentially functions like a fully automated, climate-controlled mini-laboratory: it can change the media for the cells, monitor their growth, and send the data back to Earth. The astronauts just need to plug it in.
For this very first mission with the organoids, Muotri wants to see how the cells grow and proliferate. Based on previous research,he predicts that The progenitor cells will proliferate faster and will probably generate a bigger organoid. Although a bigger brain sounds better, this might actually be a problem: if the brain and surrounding skull are too big,it might prevent birth through the birth canal. It's still speculation, but it's entirely possible thatmaybe humans cannot have natural deliveries in space.
The other issue with faster brain development is that large brain volumes have been implicated in the development of autism spectrum disorder. In fact, having a larger brain circumference is one of the most robust biomarkers of autism. We dont fully understand how cell proliferation may later in life lead to intellectual problems or cognitive disability, so this gives us a model to understand that, Muotri hopes.
At the moment, we dont know much about the cellular mechanisms that microgravity could directly impact. Using genome sequencing and techniques to detect epigenetic signatures, Muotris team will look to see if the genomes of the organoids have changed. There is definitely an epigenetic signature that changes neurons in space,"Muotri insists, "thats what we want to figure out.
Of course, organoids cant capture brain development in utero in its full complexity. However, this study could point us to important considerations before we pack our space bags. For example,it's possible that people with certain genetic backgrounds are less susceptible to the (lack of) pressures of microgravity and might fare better in space. However far-fetched, the social implications are staggering. If it turns out that some genetic backgrounds are better adapted to have babies in space, would this dictate who could become space-faring?
Lastly, Muotri would like to compare organoids generated from cells of healthypatients to those from people with Alzheimers or Parkinsons disease. In 2011, a lab down the hall from Muotri's at UC San Diego showed thatneurons derived from schizophrenic patientswere different than those derived from neurotypical patients. However, similar in-the-dish research on diseases of the aging brain have been limited. Organoids closely resemble young neural tissue, and it is a lot of work to keep them alive until they start to look like an aging brain. When Muotricompared neurotypical and Alzheimers organoids in Earths gravity, they were indistinguishable. However,this might not be true in space: Maybe in the microgravity of space the organoids will age faster, and we could reveal their [Alzheimer's] phenotypes.
We are still learning a lot about the brain on Earth, but Alysson Muotri is already testing what might happen to the developing brain in space
Photo by jesse orrico on Unsplash
Muotri would also like to send the organoids up with even more sensors, including recording arrays that can actually measure the electrical activity of the organoids while theyre in space. Such data could provide clues about the functionality of these brain clumps, in addition to their genetic and anatomical signatures.
Muotris energy and enthusiasm for the project is palpable. But he has one big concern: when the mini-brains were sent into space, there was a 24-hour black out period during launch preparation over which the Space Tango couldnt send back data. Muotri confessed that this was his biggest worry for the mission. But, he still laughed heartily, We just have to hope that everything is going to be okay.
Originally posted here:
- Liberty Health Sciences Appoints George Gremse To The Board Of Directors - PRNewswire - October 16th, 2019
- ZOM Senior Living, in a venture with Liberty Senior Living and funds managed by Ares Management Corporation's Real Estate Group, announces... - October 16th, 2019
- EAST LIBERTY DEVELOPMENT: Vote Wednesday could help clear way for controversial $50 million project in East Liberty - WPXI Pittsburgh - October 16th, 2019
- Take A Look! | Black Bear Spotted Swimming In Liberty Reservoir - CBS Baltimore - October 16th, 2019
- Religious Liberty, Nondiscrimination, and the Left - National Review - October 16th, 2019
- 'Citizens for Liberty and Labor' PAC drops another $40K against Woodward's campaign - KXLY Spokane - October 16th, 2019
- Liberty Harbor East opens, bringing another luxury apartment building and relocated Whole Foods to Baltimore - Baltimore Sun - October 16th, 2019
- Kelvin Edwards honored to have his jersey retired at Liberty - Lynchburg News and Advance - October 16th, 2019
- Liberty City and Brownville will not rise | Letters to the Editor - The Miami Times - October 16th, 2019
- Have you ever wanted to fly in a World War II-era B-17 or P-51 Mustang? Heres your chance - Commercial Appeal - October 16th, 2019
- Water Main Break On Liberty Ave. In Front Of Wyndham Grand Hotel Floods Road - CBS Pittsburgh - October 16th, 2019
- No Parking Ordinance Vexes Some Liberty Residents - The Tube City Almanac - October 16th, 2019
- Review: Liberty: Mother of Exiles pays tribute to the statue - Los Angeles Times - October 16th, 2019
- What it's like to grow up next to the Statue of Liberty - New York Post - October 16th, 2019
- In Focus: New Red Door Grill in Liberty allows you to leave troubles at door - KMBC Kansas City - October 16th, 2019
- Readers respond: We need a southern Statue of Liberty - OregonLive.com - October 16th, 2019
- ICRC welcomes the UN's Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty - World - ReliefWeb - October 16th, 2019
- Contest for Liberty Review: Commanding the Continentals - The Wall Street Journal - October 1st, 2019
- Contradicting earlier account, Liberty's accreditor says it has not contacted university over media reports - Lynchburg News and Advance - October 1st, 2019
- Argument over Carson King, Busch Light leads to assault in North Liberty - The Gazette - October 1st, 2019
- Correction: Liberty University-Falwell story - The Associated Press - October 1st, 2019
- Liberty Gold Drills Thick, High-Grade Carlin-Style Gold Mineralization at the Black Pine Project, Idaho, USA, Including 2.51 g/t Oxide Gold over 41.1... - October 1st, 2019
- Bellaire Big Reds; West Liberty University Team Of The Week - WTRF - October 1st, 2019
- Elvis, Tina Turner, Madonna and the Statue of Liberty walk into the University of Arizona - Arizona Daily Wildcat - October 1st, 2019
- Police reveal names of young girls found dead in car in Liberty County - WJCL News - October 1st, 2019
- If You Had Bought Liberty Braves Group (NASDAQ:BATR.K) Stock Three Years Ago, You Could Pocket A 60% Gain Today - Simply Wall St - October 1st, 2019
- Freedom of Association: The First Liberty - Stoutonia - October 1st, 2019
- Liberty and the pursuit of happiness - Washington Times - October 1st, 2019
- Religious Liberty Fight on the Horizon at SCOTUS - Townhall - October 1st, 2019
- Wellsboro's Mann nets 50th in win over NP-Liberty - Towanda Daily Review - October 1st, 2019
- Region roundup: Liberty volleyball earns third straight sweep, and more - Lynchburg News and Advance - October 1st, 2019
- Liberty University official to launch primary challenge to GOP's Riggleman | TheHill - The Hill - October 1st, 2019
- Curbs in Kashmir: There has to be balance between personal liberty & national security, says SC - Economic Times - October 1st, 2019
- WNBA Great Teresa Weatherspoon to Make Mark in NBA - HERO Sports - October 1st, 2019
- Liberty the perfect place for Brandon Hall to return to coaching wrestling - lehighvalleylive.com - October 1st, 2019
- International Space Station to be visible on Sept. 19-20 - Yahoo News - September 19th, 2019
- A Room with a Galactic View Inside the Worlds First Space Hotel - The Vintage News - September 19th, 2019
- Bigelow's B330 - an autonomous, expandable independent exploration space station - NASASpaceflight.com - September 19th, 2019
- First hotel in space set to open in 2025 with cruise ship amenities and out-of-this-world views - Fox 35 Orlando - September 19th, 2019
- Bigelow Aerospace and NASA test earthly mockup of interplanetary space station - GeekWire - September 19th, 2019
- Designs revealed for incredible new space hotel - CNN - September 19th, 2019
- NASA Astronauts interact with Kentucky students while in space - WBKO - September 19th, 2019
- Fox's 'Ad Astra' Bets on More Than Just Space Spectacle to Draw Moviegoers - Hollywood Reporter - September 19th, 2019
- Brad Pitt to Speak with NASA Astronaut on Space Station about Artemis Program - PRNewswire - September 19th, 2019
- Maine astronauts to shake hands in space - NewsCenterMaine.com WCSH-WLBZ - September 19th, 2019
- First commercial space hotel to have low-gravity basketball, rock climbing: Reports - ABC News - September 19th, 2019
- SpaceX Seeks Property Buyouts Near Starhopper Launch Site in Texas: Report - Space.com - September 19th, 2019
- First Space Hotel Set To Open In 2025 - wkdq.com - September 19th, 2019
- One-time UBC researcher headed to International Space Station - Vancouver Sun - September 19th, 2019
- Hazza's space mission proves anything is possible for Emirati youth - Gulf News - September 19th, 2019
- Brad Pitt speaks to NASA astronaut onboard Space Station - WTVY, Dothan - September 19th, 2019
- What Happens to Your Body If You Die in Space? - Popular Mechanics - September 19th, 2019
- What happens to the human body in space - Business Insider - September 19th, 2019
- US Space Module Genesis II Might Crash into Relict Russian Satellite - Space Daily - September 19th, 2019
- Watch a Robot Fish Fly by Shooting Water out of Its Rear - September 14th, 2019
- Residents Are Trying to Flee Russian Town Where Snow Turned Black - September 14th, 2019
- This Startup Will Send DNA From Your Spit to the Moon for $99 - September 14th, 2019
- FBI Investigation Targets Trump Booster Peter Thiel’s VC Firm - September 14th, 2019
- YouTube Influencers Are Mentally Collapsing From Stress - September 14th, 2019
- Watch SpaceX Test Its Crew Dragon’s Escape System - September 14th, 2019
- MIT Team “Accidentally” Invents Blackest Material in Existence - September 14th, 2019
- A Driver Tricked Uber’s Algorithm, Sexually Assaulted a Passenger - September 14th, 2019
- Toyota Wants to Slather Solar Panels All Over Its Prius Hybrid - September 14th, 2019
- A Runaway Star Is Escaping a Black Hole at 1.2 Million MPH - September 14th, 2019
- Putin Critic Uses Drone to Save Hard Drives Before Police Raid - September 14th, 2019
- Airbus Planes Will Track How Often Passengers Go to the Bathroom - September 14th, 2019
- French Gov Official Warns Facebook: Libra Is Not Welcome Here - September 14th, 2019
- Watch a Tesla Model X Blast Through Deep Flood Waters - September 14th, 2019
- Milky Way’s Giant Black Hole Lets out Two Giant, Radioactive Burps - September 14th, 2019
- Instagram Keeps Accidentally Flagging Fish Photos as Offensive - September 14th, 2019
- MIT Community Horrified by Famed Researcher’s Epstein Outburst - September 14th, 2019
- Unlike MIT, Harvard Cut Off Epstein Donations After Conviction - September 14th, 2019
- Horrifying Study: Corpses Thrash Around For a Year After Death - September 14th, 2019
- atheism | Definition, Philosophy, & Comparison to ... - May 28th, 2019
- atheism r/atheism - reddit: the front page of the internet - May 28th, 2019
- Atheism | CARM.org - May 28th, 2019
- Atheism - Simple English Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia - May 28th, 2019
- Ripple Price Forecast: XRP vs SWIFT, SEC Updates, and More - May 25th, 2019
- Cryptocurrency News: This Week on Bitfinex, Tether, Coinbase, & More - May 25th, 2019
- Cryptocurrency News: Looking Past the Bithumb Crypto Hack - May 25th, 2019