Space travel alters human vascular cell function, study finds

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In a caller study published successful NPJ Microgravity, scientists research nan effect of spaceflight connected quality vascular soft musculus cells astatine nan transcriptomic level.

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Study: Spaceflight effects connected quality vascular soft musculus compartment phenotype and function. Image Credit: Cinefootage Visuals /


Astronauts walking successful spaceflight are exposed to a highly dispute situation characterized by microgravity, high-level radiation, and galore different overseas factors. Taken together, these factors induce a wide scope of physiological changes, particularly astatine nan cellular level.

More specifically, quality vulnerability to microgravity tin origin muscular atrophy, bony resorption, flattening of nan eye, and cardiovascular deconditioning. The second is characterized by nonaccomplishment of vascular tone, reduced full humor volume, and diminished cardiac output, and it tin lead to terrible wellness complications successful astronauts.

In nan existent study, scientists research cardiovascular deconditioning-associated behavioral changes astatine nan cellular level. To this end, quality vascular soft musculus cells cultured successful microgravity and aboard nan International Space Station (ISS) were subjected to a transcriptomic study to find nan mechanisms progressive successful imaginable pathway regulation.

Important findings

Compared to power cells, which remained astatine nan crushed level, spaceflight vascular soft musculus cells exhibited differential look of complete 4,422 genes, 43% of which were upregulated and 57% downregulated.

The pathway study of transcriptomic information identified 28 pathways that were importantly inhibited. Comparatively, nan phosphatase and tensin homolog (PTEN) signaling and peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor α (PPARα)/retinoid X receptor α (RXRα) pathways were importantly activated.

Three networks associated pinch differentially expressed genes were identified and corresponded to cardiovascular disease, arsenic good arsenic cardiovascular strategy improvement and function.

Spaceflight besides powerfully affected respective components of nan awesome transducer and activator of transcription 3 (STAT3), atomic facet κB (NF-κB), phosphoinositide 3 kinase (PI3K)/AKT, hypoxia-inducible facet 1 α (HIF1α), and endothelin-1 pathways.

A full of 22 cardiovascular signaling pathways were besides identified, 3 of which were importantly inhibited. These pathways were progressive successful cardiac hypertrophy signaling, nan domiciled of atomic facet of activated T-cells (NFAT) successful cardiac hypertrophy, and cardiac hypertrophy signaling.

Gene ontology (GO) study of importantly affected differentially expressed genes was besides performed. Moreover, GO annotations were divided into 3 genitor position of biologic process, cellular component, and molecular function.

Most of nan differentially expressed genes were associated pinch extracellular processes and extracellular matrix relationship terms. Extracellular region and abstraction were nan astir represented cellular constituent terms. Molecular usability included respective binding terms, specified arsenic heparin, extracellular matrix, and glycosaminoglycan binding, arsenic good arsenic extracellular matrix structural constituent.

The study of cellular constituent and molecular usability position revealed important changes successful extracellular matrix genes related to some accumulation and cellular adherence. The study of biologic process position showed enrichment of cell, cell-cell, and homophilic compartment adhesion. 

These findings collectively bespeak important changes successful extracellular matrix usability and binding, arsenic good arsenic cellular processes related to proliferation, migration, and angiogenesis successful spaceflight-exposed vascular soft musculus cells.

Further study revealed that upregulated genes were associated pinch compartment division-related processes and components. Comparatively, downregulated genes were associated pinch cellular adhesion, awesome transduction, and various binding functions, including protein, calcium ion, heparin, and integrin binding.

Significantly altered look of genes related to vascular soft musculus compartment contraction, synthetic and osteogenic phenotypes were observed during spaceflight. Most of nan components related to these phenotypes, including soft musculus alpha-actin (αSMA), matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs), and bony morphogenic proteins (BMPs), were downregulated successful vascular soft musculus cells exposed to spaceflight.

Study significance

The existent study reports a simplification successful nan contractile phenotype of vascular soft musculus cells exposed to spaceflight. These cells besides look to acquisition a phenotype switching towards a synthetic aliases osteogenic phenotype. Additionally, nan downregulated look of astir of nan identified genes indicates that spaceflight vulnerability causes wide transcriptional inhibition successful vascular soft musculus cells.

Given nan unaltered functioning of definite cellular processes during a 72-hour spaceflight, nan scientists hypothesize that vascular soft musculus cells whitethorn accommodate to microgravity erstwhile exposed to nan abstraction situation for much than 72 hours. However, familial changes whitethorn collectively lead to an alteration successful vascular soft musculus compartment functions.

Future studies are needed to find nan circumstantial mechanisms by which cells change their behaviour successful consequence to spaceflight.  

Journal reference:

  • Scotti, M. M., Wilson, B. K., Bubenik, J. L., et al. (2024). Spaceflight effects connected quality vascular soft musculus compartment phenotype and function. NPJ Microgravity 10(41). doi:10.1038/s41526-024-00380-w/