Discipline: Biological Sciences
Subcategory: Biomedical Engineering
Aurora Washington - Tougaloo College
Co-Author(s): Liane Livi, Kari Truong, and Diane Hoffman-Kim, Brown University, Providence, RI
Astronauts that experience space travel typically encounter a variety of physical health problems while they are in space and upon their return. Some of the short term effects astronauts experience are cognitive impairments: loss of coordination, balance, and orientation. The reasons for these occurrences are not completely understood. By investigating the effects of microgravity or weightlessness at the cellular level, particularly with cortical neurons, insight into the physical health problems that astronauts face can be gained. Cortical cells come from the cortex of the brain which is responsible for action and thought. In this experiment the cortex from a post-natal rat pup was dissociated into single cells, then seeded into agarose microwells and allowed to assemble into 3D cortical neuron microtissues (spheroids) over-night. Spheroids were subjected to either simulated microgravity (SMG), or normal gravity (1G) for 7 days. The spheroids were then plated onto Poly-D-Lysine coated plastic and overnight time-lapse microscopy images were recorded and analyzed (counting neurites and measuring the length of the neurites). Immunocytochemistry was also done to identify the components of the spheroids and the processes that extended outside of the micro-tissues. It was observed that 1G spheroids had longer and more neurite extensions than the 3D micro-tissues incubated in SMG. SMG data also suggests a difference in time of emergence of processes. Identifying the effects that microgravity has on cell health and cell processes could possibly lead to the prevention of cognitive impairment and make space travel safer.
Funder Acknowledgement(s): NASA Rhode Island Space Grant- This research was supported by NASA Rhode Island Space Grant NNX15AI06H; Jackson Heart Study-The Jackson Heart Study is supported by contracts, HHSN268201300048C from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities.
Faculty Advisor: Diane Hoffman-Kim,