From lift off to splash down: An update on Mayo Clinic stem cells in space

It’s been six years since Mayo Clinic doctor Abba Zubair, M.D., Ph.D., watched stem cells from his regenerative drugs laboratory blast into space as a part of a analysis effort that to see if zero gravity would assist the cells multiply sooner.

Approximately 15 million individuals worldwide expertise a stroke yearly, in accordance to the World Health Organization. Currently, stroke stays a high explanation for demise and incapacity in the world.

Finding new therapies for stroke is necessary to Abba Zubair, M.D., Ph.D., a Mayo Clinic doctor and scientist whose mom was laid low with a stroke when he was youthful. As a regenerative medicine specialist, Dr. Zubair is concentrated on utilizing grownup stem cells — referred to as mesenchymal stem cells —and their use in future therapies for stroke.

SpaceX CRS-10 mission blast off from NASA's Kennedy Space Center with Dr. Zubair's stem cell research

Growing up in Nigeria, Dr. Zubair had high ambitions, together with dreams of becoming an astronaut. Though he has not taken flight, his work has – actually. In 2017, a number of samples of donated stem cells from Dr. Zubair’s lab have been on a rocket launched from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

The aim was to discover out if the cells may maintain up in space and be extra rapidly mass-produced in microgravity to be used in stroke therapy.

Dr. Zubair was not too long ago honored by NASA with the Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medal for demonstrating that human-derived mesenchymal stem cells grown aboard the International Space Station (ISS) could possibly be used for potential scientific functions. The award ceremony occurred on the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in Houston.

In honor of stroke month, Dr. Zubair solutions questions on that preliminary space mission and shares an update on the standing of his stem cell analysis at Mayo Clinic.

It’s been six years because you first despatched stem cells into space to see if they’d multiply sooner in zero gravity. Can you give us an update on the state of the analysis? What did preliminary research discover, and what have you ever discovered thus far?

Similar to each analysis endeavor, we learned a lot and revealed a number of the outcomes, however we even have extra questions. We discovered not all stem cells are created equal and that their response to microgravity (weightlessness) varies. For instance, mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs, or grownup stem cells which have proven therapeutic potential and have been nicely studied) don’t considerably develop sooner in space in contrast to Earth, however their biology — equivalent to their capacity to management immune cells — was considerably enhanced. On the opposite hand, hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs, or immature cells that may become all kinds of blood cells equivalent to white blood cells, purple blood cells, and platelets) appeared to develop a lot sooner in space than on Earth. We additionally noticed vital modifications in gene expression because of publicity to microgravity circumstances. We are nonetheless analyzing the information and doing extra research to assist us perceive the impact of microgravity on the cells. We hope to use the information gained from this and different analysis for future therapeutic merchandise for the therapy of stroke.

NASA astronaut working on Dr. Zubair's stem cell research on space station
NASA astronaut working on Dr. Zubair’s stem cell analysis on space station

What did you study in regards to the security of stem cells grown in microgravity for future research and coverings?

This is probably the most encouraging discovering from the research. We confirmed that the cells grown in the ISS setting don’t have any proof of DNA injury or chromosomal abnormalities. They additionally confirmed no indicators of malignant transformation or indicators suggesting most cancers growth. With this data, we consider these cells could have the potential for viability to incorporate into numerous therapies, nonetheless, extra research are wanted.

We perceive you might be planning one other space launch. What is the aim of that mission?

The mission of this new mission is to develop twine blood-derived hematopoietic stem cells in a collaborative research. This mission will construct on our earlier spaceflight expertise and make sure our earlier findings. We have three spaceflight experiments deliberate for this mission and launch dates are a transferring goal.

We have one other NASA-funded mission that we have now been working on for the final two years inspecting the function of MSCs in microgravity-associated bone loss and the way we are able to finest stop or deal with this downside. It will turn out to be an excellent greater downside for long-duration spaceflights — for instance, once we need to take people to Mars and past. This mission has two spaceflights, and the primary spaceflight experiment is scheduled to go later this fall.

Dr. Zubair working in his laboratory
Dr. Zubair working in his laboratory

Can you share what new, further analysis you’ve got in the pipeline? 

Another ardour of mine associated to space is radiation harm to stem cells. This has relevance in getting ready people to enterprise past the Earth’s magnetic area safety. This may have relevance to how we are able to stop and deal with radiation harm following most cancers remedy or nuclear accidents related to what occurred in Fukushima, Japan, or Chernobyl, Ukraine.

Mayo has been engaged in different space drugs initiatives. Can you share a remark or two in regards to the hope of what space will supply us relating to advances in drugs and coverings? 

Space exploration has generated quite a lot of innovations and applied sciences that made human life simpler on Earth. In the identical gentle, I consider space analysis will generate new information about how our bodily techniques work and can improve our understanding of illness mechanisms that lead to novel therapies of human illnesses and circumstances on Earth and in space. Mayo Clinic is nicely positioned to play a task (and is already doing so) in reaching this imaginative and prescient.

How will these space drugs initiatives translate to affected person care?

The space drugs initiatives Mayo Clinic is finishing up will assist us to perceive our personal physiology and improve our understanding of many illnesses and circumstances, which might lead to the event of novel therapies that may remedy many unmet affected person wants. The solely problem is the time it should take to translate the outcomes into affected person care. So, persistence is required.

Read extra about Dr. Zubair and his analysis

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