• Science Saturday: Interstellar stem cell research to improve regenerative therapies

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

Mayo Clinic research is reaching to the cosmos for answers on how to overcome hurdles in engineering human stem cells. Mesenchymal stem cells are adult stem cells with potential to unleash the body’s ability to heal diseased tissues and organs. However, growing or culturing stem cells in the laboratory is a slow process, and sometimes cells lose potency in the transfer from the body to the culture dish.

In his quest to improve manufacturing of stem cells for regenerative therapies, Abba Zubair, M.D., Ph.D., a leader in the Center for Regenerative Medicine, had stem cells from the research laboratory at Mayo Clinic in Florida flown on an interstellar trip to the International Space Station. His research team seeks to understand whether culturing stem cells in microgravity could improve function and accessibility. Dr. Zubair’s study, published in Nature Partner Journals Microgravity, finds stem cells grown in weightlessness are safe and feasible for applications to human disease.

Abba Zubair, M.D., Ph.D.

“In this study, we have established the identity, purity, viability and sterility of growing mesenchymal stem cells for human application at the International Space Station compared to ground controls,” says Dr. Zubair, who is senior author on the study. “The use of standard two- dimensional tissue culture flasks on Earth is an unnatural condition for cell growth. Therefore, culturing stem cells aboard the International Space Station under a weightlessness environment may provide a more natural three-dimensional environment for stem cell expansion and organ development.”

Read the rest of the article on the Center for Regenerative Medicine blog.


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