Special Issue "Advances in Space Biomedicine and Disease Pathogenesis"

A special issue of Life (ISSN 2075-1729). This special issue belongs to the section "Medical Research".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (26 April 2023) | Viewed by 6735

Special Issue Editors

Clinical & Health Sciences, University of South Australia, Adelaide 5000, Australia
Interests: space biomedicine; microgravity; cell biology; prostate cancer; mechanobiology
Schlegel-University of Waterloo Research Institute for Aging, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, ON N2G 0E2, Canada
Interests: cell biology; mechanobiology; bone biology; microgravity life sciences; space nutrition and health
Musculoskeletal & Neurological Institute; Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine, Ohio University, Athens, OH 45701, USA
Interests: muscle; molecular medicine; data sciences; spaceflight hardware for biology experiments
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Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

From the smallest prokaryote to the largest mammal, life on Earth has evolved in a 1 g environment. So too has disease pathogenesis. At the heart of many of the pathologies that develop during spaceflight is fundamental alterations in cell biology. Physiological and cellular responses to altered gravity or mechanical forces through spaceflight or simulated microgravity experiments can be examined in a variety of systems ranging from human to animal and cellular models including mammalian cells and microorganisms within our microbiome.

This Special Issue focuses on recent advances investigating biomedicine and disease pathogenesis in space environments ranging from simulated to orbital/suborbital microgravity, and cosmic radiation exposure. These reveal novel mechanically or gravity-driven processes that influence human development and health, with key pathways initiated during the onset of disease pathogenesis providing new biomarkers to monitor cellular and physiological stress or provide targets for novel therapeutic countermeasures. This has significant benefit not only for the next generation of spacefarers, but critically, in combatting diseases on Earth that are frequently associated with aging, or deleterious effects of limited mobility. Further, manuscripts are invited in research that exploits the challenges of research in simulated or orbital/suborbital microgravity, through biomedical advancements in device miniaturization to improve biomedical diagnostic tools that have applications in remote or extreme environments, or through developments in tissue engineering.

Dr. Ian R.D. Johnson
Dr. Roxy Fournier
Prof. Dr. Nathaniel Szewczyk
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All submissions that pass pre-check are peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Life is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 2600 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  •  biomedicine in extreme environments.
  •  in vitro and in vivo models of research in space environments
  •  mitigation of spaceflight-induced pathophysiology
  •  gravitational effects on biological systems.
  •  radiation effects on biological systems.
  •  space biology
  •  life support systems and advances in biostasis
  •  development of tools and biomarkers for remote monitoring of human health

Published Papers (5 papers)

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Research

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Article
Simulated Microgravity-Induced Changes to Drug Response in Cancer Cells Quantified Using Fluorescence Morphometry
Life 2023, 13(8), 1683; https://doi.org/10.3390/life13081683 - 04 Aug 2023
Viewed by 720
Abstract
Unlike plants that have special gravity-sensing cells, such special cells in animals are yet to be discovered. However, microgravity, the condition of apparent weightlessness, causes bone, muscular and immune system dysfunctions in astronauts following spaceflights. Decades of investigations show correlations between these organ [...] Read more.
Unlike plants that have special gravity-sensing cells, such special cells in animals are yet to be discovered. However, microgravity, the condition of apparent weightlessness, causes bone, muscular and immune system dysfunctions in astronauts following spaceflights. Decades of investigations show correlations between these organ and system-level dysfunctions with changes induced at the cellular level both by simulated microgravity as well as microgravity conditions in outer space. Changes in single bone, muscle and immune cells include morphological abnormalities, altered gene expression, protein expression, metabolic pathways and signaling pathways. These suggest that human cells mount some response to microgravity. However, the implications of such adjustments on many cellular functions and responses are not clear. Here, we addressed the question whether microgravity induces alterations to drug response in cancer cells. We used both adherent cancer cells (T98G) and cancer cells in suspension (K562) to confirm the known effects of simulated microgravity and then treated the K562 cells with common cancer drugs (hydroxyurea and paclitaxel) following 48 h of exposure to simulated microgravity via a NASA-developed rotary cell culture system. Through fluorescence-guided morphometry, we found that microgravity abolished a significant reduction (p < 0.01) in the nuclear-to-cytoplasm ratio of cancer cells treated with hydroxyurea. Our results call for more studies on the impact of microgravity on cellular drug response, in light of the growing need for space medicine, as space exploration grows. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Advances in Space Biomedicine and Disease Pathogenesis)
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Article
Effects of Simulated 5-Ion Galactic Cosmic Radiation on Function and Structure of the Mouse Heart
Life 2023, 13(3), 795; https://doi.org/10.3390/life13030795 - 15 Mar 2023
Viewed by 825
Abstract
Missions into deep space will expose astronauts to the harsh space environment, and the degenerative tissue effects of space radiation are largely unknown. To assess the risks, in this study, male BALB/c mice were exposed to 500 mGy 5-ion simulated GCR (GCRsim) at [...] Read more.
Missions into deep space will expose astronauts to the harsh space environment, and the degenerative tissue effects of space radiation are largely unknown. To assess the risks, in this study, male BALB/c mice were exposed to 500 mGy 5-ion simulated GCR (GCRsim) at the NASA Space Radiation Laboratory. In addition, male and female CD1 mice were exposed to GCRsim and administered a diet containing Transforming Growth Factor-beta (TGF-β)RI kinase (ALK5) inhibitor IPW-5371 as a potential countermeasure. An ultrasound was performed to investigate cardiac function. Cardiac tissue was collected to determine collagen deposition, the density of the capillary network, and the expression of the immune mediator toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4) and immune cell markers CD2, CD4, and CD45. In male BALB/c mice, the only significant effects of GCRsim were an increase in the CD2 and TLR4 markers. In male CD1 mice, GCRsim caused a significant increase in total collagens and a decrease in the expression of TLR4, both of which were mitigated by the TGF-β inhibitor diet. In female CD1 mice, GCRsim caused an increase in the number of capillaries per tissue area in the ventricles, which may be explained by the decrease in the left ventricular mass. However, this increase was not mitigated by TGF-β inhibition. In both male and female CD1 mice, the combination of GCRsim and TGF-β inhibition caused changes in left ventricular immune cell markers that were not seen with GCRsim alone. These data suggest that GCRsim results in minor changes to cardiac tissue in both an inbred and outbred mouse strain. While there were few GCRsim effects to be mitigated, results from the combination of GCRsim and the TGF-β inhibitor do point to a role for TGF-β in maintaining markers of immune cells in the heart after exposure to GCR. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Advances in Space Biomedicine and Disease Pathogenesis)
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Article
The Unresolved Methodological Challenge of Detecting Neuroplastic Changes in Astronauts
Life 2023, 13(2), 500; https://doi.org/10.3390/life13020500 - 11 Feb 2023
Viewed by 1097
Abstract
After completing a spaceflight, astronauts display a salient upward shift in the position of the brain within the skull, accompanied by a redistribution of cerebrospinal fluid. Magnetic resonance imaging studies have also reported local changes in brain volume following a spaceflight, which have [...] Read more.
After completing a spaceflight, astronauts display a salient upward shift in the position of the brain within the skull, accompanied by a redistribution of cerebrospinal fluid. Magnetic resonance imaging studies have also reported local changes in brain volume following a spaceflight, which have been cautiously interpreted as a neuroplastic response to spaceflight. Here, we provide evidence that the grey matter volume changes seen in astronauts following spaceflight are contaminated by preprocessing errors exacerbated by the upwards shift of the brain within the skull. While it is expected that an astronaut’s brain undergoes some neuroplastic adaptations during spaceflight, our findings suggest that the brain volume changes detected using standard processing pipelines for neuroimaging analyses could be contaminated by errors in identifying different tissue types (i.e., tissue segmentation). These errors may undermine the interpretation of such analyses as direct evidence of neuroplastic adaptation, and novel or alternate preprocessing or experimental paradigms are needed in order to resolve this important issue in space health research. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Advances in Space Biomedicine and Disease Pathogenesis)
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Review

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Review
Cyanobacteria and Algal-Based Biological Life Support System (BLSS) and Planetary Surface Atmospheric Revitalizing Bioreactor Brief Concept Review
Life 2023, 13(3), 816; https://doi.org/10.3390/life13030816 - 17 Mar 2023
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1307
Abstract
Exploring austere environments required a reimagining of resource acquisition and utilization. Cyanobacterial in situ resources utilization (ISRU) and biological life support system (BLSS) bioreactors have been proposed to allow crewed space missions to extend beyond the temporal boundaries that current vehicle mass capacities [...] Read more.
Exploring austere environments required a reimagining of resource acquisition and utilization. Cyanobacterial in situ resources utilization (ISRU) and biological life support system (BLSS) bioreactors have been proposed to allow crewed space missions to extend beyond the temporal boundaries that current vehicle mass capacities allow. Many cyanobacteria and other microscopic organisms evolved during a period of Earth’s history that was marked by very harsh conditions, requiring robust biochemical systems to ensure survival. Some species work wonderfully in a bioweathering capacity (siderophilic), and others are widely used for their nutritional power (non-siderophilic). Playing to each of their strengths and having them grow and feed off of each other is the basis for the proposed idea for a series of three bioreactors, starting from regolith processing and proceeding to nutritional products, gaseous liberation, and biofuel production. In this paper, we discuss what that three reactor system will look like, with the main emphasis on the nutritional stage. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Advances in Space Biomedicine and Disease Pathogenesis)
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Review
Homo sapiens—A Species Not Designed for Space Flight: Health Risks in Low Earth Orbit and Beyond, Including Potential Risks When Traveling beyond the Geomagnetic Field of Earth
Life 2023, 13(3), 757; https://doi.org/10.3390/life13030757 - 10 Mar 2023
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1738
Abstract
Homo sapiens and their predecessors evolved in the context of the boundary conditions of Earth, including a 1 g gravity and a geomagnetic field (GMF). These variables, plus others, led to complex organisms that evolved under a defined set of conditions and define [...] Read more.
Homo sapiens and their predecessors evolved in the context of the boundary conditions of Earth, including a 1 g gravity and a geomagnetic field (GMF). These variables, plus others, led to complex organisms that evolved under a defined set of conditions and define how humans will respond to space flight, a circumstance that could not have been anticipated by evolution. Over the past ~60 years, space flight and living in low Earth orbit (LEO) have revealed that astronauts are impacted to varying degrees by such new environments. In addition, it has been noted that astronauts are quite heterogeneous in their response patterns, indicating that such variation is either silent if one remained on Earth, or the heterogeneity unknowingly contributes to disease development during aging or in response to insults. With the planned mission to deep space, humans will now be exposed to further risks from radiation when traveling beyond the influence of the GMF, as well as other potential risks that are associated with the actual loss of the GMF on the astronauts, their microbiomes, and growing food sources. Experimental studies with model systems have revealed that hypogravity conditions can influence a variety biological and physiological systems, and thus the loss of the GMF may have unanticipated consequences to astronauts’ systems, such as those that are electrical in nature (i.e., the cardiovascular system and central neural systems). As astronauts have been shown to be heterogeneous in their responses to LEO, they may require personalized countermeasures, while others may not be good candidates for deep-space missions if effective countermeasures cannot be developed for long-duration missions. This review will discuss several of the physiological and neural systems that are affected and how the emerging variables may influence astronaut health and functioning. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Advances in Space Biomedicine and Disease Pathogenesis)
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