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Bone and Signaling Laboratory

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Ruth Globus Ph.D., Co-Director
Eduardo Almeida, Ph.D., Co-Director

The Bone and Signaling Laboratory is a multi-investigator collaborative facility in the Space Biosciences Division at NASA’s Ames Research Center that investigates the physiological responses of bone to the spaceflight environment (e.g., microgravity, mechanical force, and exposure to space radiation) with the long-term goals of defining biological mechanisms and improving the habitability of space. In addition to its research mission, the laboratory also aims to train and inspire young scientists to pursue careers in space biosciences. The current laboratory principal investigators focus their work on diverse research goals and synergize to share ideas, equipment and resources. 

Current areas of research include:
Microgravity and space radiation effects on bone (Globus)
Microgravity effects on stem cells in vivo  (Almeida)
Effects of microgravity on mesenchymal stem cell differentiation (Blaber)
Mechanical regulation of skeletal structure (Alwood)

Globus Team 
Microgravity and space radiation are fundamental physical components of the space environment that can challenge the long-term skeletal health of astronauts, both while in space and after return to Earth. We hypothesize that microgravity and radiation in space engage molecular and cellular pathways that evolved to protect the organism from environmental stresses, but also can lead to degeneration of skeletal tissue. The following are research objectives currently under study:
1) Determine how ionizing radiation regulates bone marrow-derived stem cells, precursors, and differentiated progeny that are responsible for maintaining skeletal integrity during subsequent aging
2) Determine how gravity and radiation, alone or combined, regulate fundamental cell functions such as differentiation, oxidative metabolism, intercellular communication and extracellular matrix interactions
3) Define relevant molecular mechanisms that mediate skeletal responses to ionizing radiation and/or changes in gravity. Results obtained from this research are relevant to common bone diseases such as osteoporosis, both on Earth and in space.

Ruth Globus
PI/Co-Director
Ruth Globus Ph.D. in endocrinology, University of California, San Francisco. BA in biology and sociology from University of California, Santa Cruz. Member of the Space Biosciences Research Branch. Subject matter expert for NASA’s Human Research Program and Space Biology project in bone biology, oxidative stress and artificial gravity. Project scientist for the Rodent Research Hardware System for the International Space Station. Sponsor of the Space Settlement Design Contest for 8th-12th graders.

Scientist/Lab Manager
Candice Tahimic Ph.D. in life science, Tottori University, Japan. BS in molecular biology and biotechnology, University of the Philippines. Postdoctoral training, Endocrine Research Unit, San Francisco VA Medical Center / UCSF.  My research experience spans skeletal biology, cellular responses to ionizing radiation-induced DNA damage, and genetic engineering of stem cells. I am currently interested in how the skeleton senses mechanical forces from physical activity and translates these stimuli into signals that promote bone formation. In addition, I am also interested in how space radiation affects the ability of osteogenic cells to proliferate and form new bone. My long-term goal is to develop effective countermeasures against the negative effects of radiation and microgravity on the skeleton.

Postdoctoral Fellow
Ann-Sofie Schreurs Ph.D. in biochemistry, University of Sussex, United Kingdom. M.Sc. in molecular and cellular biology, specialty in genetics, University Pierre and Marie Curie, France. B.Sc. in life sciences, University Pierre and Marie Curie, France. My research focuses on the potential role of oxidative stress and DNA damage in mediating bone loss encountered in spaceflight, with the aim of developing countermeasures. My time at NASA Ames, and especially in the Space Biosciences Research branch have been a great opportunity to be part of the amazing research done in the space biology field, and I am working towards a long career in space research.

Postdoctoral Fellow
Yasaman Shirazi Ph.D. biomedical engineering, Texas A&M University. B.S. mechanical engineering, Baylor University. My work focuses on better understanding the effects of the space environment (a combination of weightlessness and space radiation) on skeletal structure and strength, with the goal of reducing or preventing bone loss during spaceflight and promoting maximal recovery from bone loss upon returning to Earth. We use ground-based analogue models to simulate microgravity and perform experiments at the NASA Space Radiation Laboratory at Brookhaven National Lab in New York to study effects of heavy ion irradiation.  I focus on various exercise and mechanical loading models to improve bone recovery and assess bone microarchitecture and quality using micro-computed tomography and other assays.


Lab Management/Research Intern
Tiffany Truong I am an undergraduate student working towards my B.S. in neuroscience. I have been a part of the Bone and Signaling lab since 2012. I have been trained in the analysis of skeletal structure using micro computed tomography and am currently learning molecular biology techniques to understand mechanisms underlying the response of bone to microgravity and space radiation.

Research Assistant
Eric Moyer B.S. in biomedical engineering from The Ohio State University. I have been involved in space biosciences research of the Globus lab since November of 2013. My primary interests include furthering our understanding of the mechanical, structural, and biological changes observed in mammalian tissue due to extended spaceflight, specifically those resulting from exposure to microgravity and radiation. I continue to develop my skills in engineering and molecular biology as a part of the Space Biosciences Research Branch before pursuing an advanced degree or other career opportunities.

Emily Morey-Holton
Senior Scientist, Emeritus

Emily Morey-Holton Ph.D. in pharmacology from West Virginia University Health Sciences Center. Elected to NASA-Ames Hall of Fame. I retired in 2005, but continue to advise this exciting laboratory. We developed the hindlimb-unloading rodent model that is used across the world to mimic spaceflight and investigate countermeasures to minimize those changes.

Almeida / Blaber Team: 
The team’s research focuses on the effects of microgravity mechanical unloading on stem-cell-based tissue regeneration. Specifically, we are testing the broad hypothesis that mechanical load from gravity at 1 g is required for normal adult stem cell proliferation and differentiation during tissue regeneration.  Research from this lab has provided evidence for the gravity tissue regeneration hypothesis, and led to the identification of the cell cycle inhibitor p21/CDKN1a as a candidate molecular mediator mechanism of bone marrow mesenchymal and hematopoietic lineage tissue regenerative arrest in microgravity.  The Almeida/Blaber team is currently focused on using p21/CDKN1a null mouse and cell culture approaches in microgravity to test the gravity tissue regeneration hypothesis. This is being accomplished through two ongoing NASA Space Biology spaceflight grants awarded to Dr. Almeida and Dr. Blaber.


PI/Co-Director
Eduardo Almeida Ph.D. in Zoology, University of California, Davis, MS and BS in Biology, University of San Francisco. Dr. Almeida conducted his doctoral studies in marine invertebrate fertilization at the University of California Bodega Marine Laboratory and then went on to the University of California, San Francisco for postdoctoral studies, first of the molecular mechanisms of mammalian sperm-egg fusion, and later of extracellular matrix- integrin-kinase cell survival signaling. Dr. Almeida has been a NASA principal investigator in spaceflight experiments with newt tail stem cell tissue regeneration and gecko bone physiology (US/Russian Foton M2 and M3 missions), with mouse bone tissue regeneration (STS-131, STS-133, STS-135, and US/Russian Bion M1 mission), and with cell culture studies of mouse embryonic stem cell differentiation (STS-131 STL1, STS-135 STL2). Dr. Almeida is also NASA’s project scientist for the development of new International Space Station systems for cell culture (Bioculture System) and Real Time qPCR (WetLab-2).

Postdoctoral Fellow/Junior PI
Elizabeth Blaber Ph.D. in Molecular Genetics and Biochemistry, University of New South Wales, Australia. B.MedSc. (Honors), University of New South Wales, Australia. Dr. Blaber worked at NASA Ames Research Center in June 2010 as a research fellow in the NASA Ames Academy Program and established a collaboration as a visiting doctoral student with the Bone and Signaling Lab working with Dr. Eduardo Almeida. This enabled her to conduct research on mouse and stem cell experiments flown on the Space Shuttle BSP experiments on STS-131, and STS-133 and, Space Tissue Loss – Stem Cell Regeneration on STS-135. In 2013, Dr. Blaber was awarded a NASA Postdoctoral Program fellowship to continue her studies on the role of Cdkn1a/p21 on mechanical unloading induced bone and tissue loss at Ames and also participated in the US/Russia collaborative BionM-1 Mouse Biospecimen Sharing Program in Moscow, Russia. Dr. Blaber’s contributions to space biosciences include articles defining cellular, molecular and tissue mechanisms of bone loss in microgravity as well as the effects of microgravity mechanical unloading on mesenchymal and hematopoietic stem cell proliferation and differentiation during tissue regeneration. She is currently a NASA cell science spaceflight principal investigator at Ames.

Graduate Student
Medaya Torres B.S. in molecular biology from Santa Clara University. I am currently pursuing a masters degree in bioengineering.

Research Associate
Margareth Cheng-Campbell B.S. in cellular biology from University of California, Davis.  Ms. Cheng-Campbell has been with the Bone and Signaling Lab since June 2014 and continues to learn molecular biology, cell culture, and image analysis techniques.

Alwood Team
Bones are living structures that sense and alter their form throughout life to meet the demands of the mechanical environment. Through this lens, my research objectives are to investigate the molecular mechanisms underlying changes in skeletal structure during periods of disuse (i.e., weightlessness) or heightened use (i.e., exercise) and to develop countermeasures that prevent deleterious skeletal changes. Current projects include investigating epigenetic regulation of osteoblastogenesis and potential side effects of anti-resorptive treatments during simulated spaceflight conditions.


PI
Joshua Alwood  Ph.D. in Aeronautics & Astronautics, Stanford University. B.S. in Physics and Astronomy from the University of Florida. My work investigates how the spaceflight environment affects the activity of bone cells and alters skeletal structure and strength. I also am a Project Scientist for the Space BioSciences Division and Human Research Program.

Research Associate
Nicholas Thomas BA in Biology, University of Pennsylvania. I work in the Alwood lab investigating the effects of microgravity, prescribed mechanical loading, and radiation exposure on the physiology of musculoskeletal tissues. My research focuses on epigenetic changes induced by spaceflight.

Bone and Signaling Laboratory
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Page Last Updated: January 22nd, 2015
Page Editor: Yael Kovo