Studying bone loss mechanism in space

May 17, 2017, Hong Kong Baptist University
In vivo osteoblast-specific delivery of CKIP-1 siRNA could improve bone formation and increase bone mass of aged rats dramatically. Credit: Hong Kong Baptist University

Researchers at Hong Kong Baptist University are conducting a study on board China's spacecraft Tianzhou-1 in order to understand the effect of the "CKIP-1" gene on bone formation under microgravity in space.

The School of Chinese Medicine (SCM) of Hong Kong Baptist University (HKBU) is conducting a life science study on board China's first cargo spacecraft, Tianzhou-1, which was launched last month. HKBU is the only higher education institution from outside of Mainland to conduct a scientific research project onboard Tianzhou-1.

The HKBU team investigates the effect of the "CKIP-1" gene on under microgravity conditions in space. Under microgravity, is several times faster than on Earth, posing a serious health threat to astronauts, who therefore cannot stay in space for long periods of time. The HKBU team hopes that this study can lead to the formulation of a set of protective measures and treatment strategies as well as the discovery of new drugs to prevent or treat bone loss resulting from space travel. It could also serve as reference for the development of health care and therapeutics for the ageing population.

The HKBU team is led by Professor Lyu Aiping, HKBU's Dean of Chinese Medicine and Director of the Law Sau Fai Institute for Advancing Translational Medicine in Bone and Joint Diseases (TMBJ), and Professor Zhang Ge, Associate Director of TMBJ, Associate Director of SCM's Teaching and Research Division, and Director of the Technology Development Division, with Post-doctoral Research Fellow Dr Liang Chao and Senior Research Assistant Miss Wang Luyao as team members.

Professor Lyu Aiping said this is another important contribution made by HKBU to the Mainland's major scientific research initiatives after its participation in the first deep-sea expedition of the manned submersible Jiaolong in 2013. This new contribution not only recognises HKBU's and Hong Kong's research strength in related areas, but also is a great source of encouragement to members of the Chinese medicine and higher education sectors.

The HKBU research team: (From left) Professor Zhang Ge, Dr Liang Chao, Miss Wang Luyao and Professor Lyu Aiping. Credit: Hong Kong Baptist University

Professor Zhang Ge said the quality of research of TMBJ on bone and joint has reached the top international level. TMBJ members have in recent years published a number of research papers in prestigious academic journals such as Nature Communications and Nature Medicine. He hopes their project can bring a breakthrough in this related area of research.

The "CKIP-1" gene in osteoblast (bone forming cell) could specifically interact with "Smurf1" genes in the cells to inhibit cell activity, thereby slowing down or hindering bone formation. The research team led by Professor Lyu and Professor Zhang further found that the aberrant elevated "CKIP-1" expression in osteoblasts could inhibit bone formation and contribute to the reduction in bone formation during ageing as well as in the development of glucocorticoid-induced osteoporosis. Nevertheless, the function of "CKIP-1" on the process of formation reduction caused by microgravity in space is still not yet known. The team has placed osteoblast in which "CKIP-1" genes were silenced on board the Tianzhou 1 for further research and is monitoring the effects of "CKIP-1" on osteoblast.

To prepare for the launch of Tianzhou 1, Dr Liang Chao and Miss Wang Luyao of the HKBU team participated in a number of life science experiments at ground level organised by the National Space Science and Application Centre of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. These experiments included simulated vibration tests, bio-compatibility tests and simulated microgravity experiments as well as systematic matching experiments and rehearsals. Tianzhou 1 was launched at the Wenchang Space Launch Centre in Hainan.

Entitled "Research on the impact that microgravity has on the proliferation and differentiation of cells", the space life science study on Tianzhou-1 is led by Northwestern Polytechnical University in collaboration with HKBU, Tsinghua University, Zhejiang University, the Academy of Military Medical Sciences, and the Institute of Zoology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. The project consists of eight sub-projects and HKBU is responsible for the "CKIP-1" one.

Explore further: China prepares to launch country's first cargo spacecraft

Related Stories

China prepares to launch country's first cargo spacecraft

April 20, 2017
China is preparing to launch its first unmanned cargo spacecraft on a mission to dock with the country's space station.

China launches its first unmanned cargo spacecraft

April 20, 2017
China on Thursday launched its first unmanned cargo spacecraft on a mission to dock with the country's space station, marking further progress in the ambitious Chinese space program.

Non-coding RNA molecule could play a role in osteoporosis

March 28, 2017
Researchers from Hong Kong Baptist University and colleagues have demonstrated that a molecule called miR-214-3p plays a role in inhibiting bone formation. MiR-214-3p is a microRNA (miRNA): a non-coding RNA involved in regulating ...

Recommended for you

Implantable islet cells come with their own oxygen supply

April 25, 2018
Since the 1960s, researchers have been interested in the possibility of treating type 1 diabetes by transplanting islet cells—the pancreatic cells that are responsible for producing insulin when blood glucose concentration ...

'Incompatible' donor stem cells cure adult sickle cell patients

April 25, 2018
Doctors at the University of Illinois Hospital have cured seven adult patients of sickle cell disease, an inherited blood disorder primarily affecting the black community, using stem cells from donors previously thought to ...

Research explains link between exercise and appetite loss

April 24, 2018
Ever wonder why intense exercise temporarily curbs your appetite? In research described in today's issue of PLOS Biology, Albert Einstein College of Medicine researchers reveal that the answer is all in your head—more specifically, ...

Mammary stem cells challenge costly bovine disease

April 24, 2018
Mastitis is the most expensive disease in the dairy industry. Each clinical case can cost a dairy farmer more than $400 and damages both the cow's future output as well as her comfort.

Fruit fly study identifies new gene linked to aortic aneurysms

April 24, 2018
An interdisciplinary team of researchers has identified a new gene linked to human aortic aneurysms. By combining comprehensive genetic studies in the fruit fly, dataset searches and analysis of diseased human aortic tissue, ...

Scientists manipulate 'satellite cells' to speed healing

April 24, 2018
Muscle aches and pains, whether from stretching, strenuous exercise or just normal wear and tear, can put a crimp in your day, a limp in your step and be an actual pain in the neck. But no matter the severity, stem cells ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.