Cellular Model of Muscle Wasting in Microgravity

Micro-gRx is developing a cell-based model of muscle wasting using human precursor muscle cells important for skeletal muscle regeneration to measure the sensitivity and adaptation of these cells to microgravity over 1-2 week time period. These cells called myoblasts develop to form muscle myotubes during a differentiation process critical to normal muscle growth and repair following injury or disease. The proposed project seeks to expand on recent murine and rodent stem cell studies conducted on the International Space Station (ISS) and develop a tissue-on-a-chip model of microgravity-induced muscle wasting in myoblasts derived from human muscle biopsies and differentiated into mature muscle. The company plans to measure changes in cell morphology and functional response in-orbit over weeks and measure phenotypic and gene expression changes post-flight on samples returned to earth. 

Muscle wasting is an unmet clinical need 

muscle wasting associated with:

• Cancer
• Heart failure,
• Rheumatoid arthritis
• Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
• Aging (sarcopenia)
• Spaceflight

The project merges the expertise in stem cell biology, assay development and muscle metabolism and physiology of micro-gRx and partners at the Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute for Metabolism and Diabetes and the Translational Research Institute for Metabolism and Diabetes at Florida Hospital with SpacePharma’s sophisticated end-to-end, microfluidic labs.



Images of 20,000 muscle cells plated in two dimensions (above) and three dimensions (below). Cell nuclei are stained blue and muscle fibers are stained green. In low gravity, cells are expected to grow naturally in three dimensions than in gravity providing better cell-to-cell contact and communication.