Assessing Osteoblast Response to Tetranite™ in Microgravity Conditions to Induce Osteoporosis (Synthetic Bone) - 04.11.18

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ISS Science for Everyone

Science Objectives for Everyone
Assessing Osteoblast Response to Tetranite™ in Microgravity Conditions to Induce Osteoporosis (Synthetic Bone) examines the cellular response to a new type of bone adhesive in the microgravity environment of space. This experiment uses facilities aboard the International Space Station (ISS) to grow bone cells in the presence of a commercially available bone adhesive, and a new product called Tetranite. Sets of bone cell cultures grow with the different adhesives for 20 days and are then fixed, frozen, and returned to Earth for detailed analysis in a fully equipped biological laboratory.
Science Results for Everyone
Information Pending

The following content was provided by Brian Hess, M.B.A., and is maintained in a database by the ISS Program Science Office.
Experiment Details

OpNom: Synthetic Bone

Principal Investigator(s)
Brian Hess, M.B.A., LaunchPad Medical LLC., Lowell, MA, United States
D. Grayson Allen, M.B.A., LaunchPad Medical LLC., Lowell, MA, United States

George Kay, D.M.D., M.M.Sc., LaunchPad Medical LLC., Lowell, MA, United States
Jon Slotkin, M.D., Geisinger Health System, Danville, PA, United States
Eric Woodard, M.D., New England Baptist Hospital, Boston, MA, United States
Nikos Tapinos, M.D., Ph.D., Rhode Island Hospital, Providence, RI, United States
Mike Brown, LaunchPad Medical LLC., Lowell, MA, United States
David Kosh, LaunchPad Medical LLC., Lowell, MA, United States
Andrey Marchenko, LaunchPad Medical LLC., Lowell, MA, United States
Rob Shea, LaunchPad Medical LLC., Lowell, MA, United States
Jim McKim, Ph.D., IONTOX, Kalamazoo, MI, United States
Jamin Willoughby, Ph.D., IONTOX, Kalamazoo, MI, United States
Nick Hubbard, M.Sc., IONTOX, Kalamazoo, MI, United States
Bonnie Corpus, IONTOX, Kalamazoo, MI, United States

BioServe Space Technologies, Boulder, CO, United States

Sponsoring Space Agency
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

Sponsoring Organization
National Laboratory (NL)

Research Benefits
Earth Benefits, Scientific Discovery

ISS Expedition Duration
September 2017 - February 2018

Expeditions Assigned

Previous Missions
Information Pending

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Experiment Description

Research Overview

Within the field of bone adhesive technology, researchers have struggled to find a bone adhesive that is effective yet biocompatible. A safe, effective, and biocompatible bone adhesive could positively impact large segments of the orthopedic market.
The Assessing Osteoblast Response to Tetranite™ in Microgravity Conditions to Induce Osteoporosis (Synthetic Bone) experiment evaluates Tetranite™ (TN), a synthetic bone adhesive that can adhere to both metal and bone. TN has been shown to be safe and biocompatible during the bone healing process in animal studies, and is gradually resorbed by the body and replaced by bone. TN could be used to fix broken bones, stabilize metal orthopedic implants, and augment the structure of bone.
The microgravity environment provides a unique location to examine the interaction between bone-building osteoblasts and the TN synthetic bone material, given the effect microgravity has on cellular mechanisms. LaunchPad Medical proposes to study this interaction within a cell culture experiment on board the International Space Station (ISS), and compare TN with a commercially available bone graft product.


The Mayo Clinic defines Osteoporosis as a disease that causes bones to become weak and brittle — so brittle that a fall, or even mild stresses like bending over or coughing, can cause bone fracture. Osteoporosis occurs when the creation of new bone is insufficient enough keep up with the removal of old bone. Over 10 million Americans have osteoporosis and approximately half of all women over the age of 50 may have an osteoporosis-related fracture in their lifetime.
On Earth, there are several models aimed to simulate osteoporosis. However, there is still no clear model of choice to simulate osteoporosis in pre-clinical models, although pre-clinical testing is required for FDA approval of any new drug.
Exposure to microgravity is associated with several physiological changes in astronauts, including an osteoporosis-like loss in bone mass. It has been shown that the absence of gravitational forces causes both an increase in bone resorption by osteoclasts, and a decrease in osteoblast cellular integrity. The observed effects on both major bone cell types likely accelerates bone loss in microgravity environments, and additionally offers a potential explanation to the development of disuse osteoporosis on Earth. LPM believes the ideal environment to accelerate bone loss, and achieve conditions to best simulate osteoporosis, would be in the microgravity environment on board the ISS.
The Assessing Osteoblast Response to Tetranite™ in Microgravity Conditions to Induce Osteoporosis (Synthetic Bone) experiment assesses the osteoblast response to Tetranite™ onboard the ISS in comparison to a commercially available synthetic bone graft substitute. In addition two types of cells, Mesenchymal Stem Cells and Osteoblasts, are to be tested. The material and cells are plated on the ground and launched active to the ISS. The cells are plated so that they reach 100% confluency once the samples are on board ISS (within 5-7 days). Once on board the ISS, the media is exchanged within the cultures every 5 days, for up to 20 days. The cells are fixed, or preserved, at two different time points, and the RNA from the cells is isolated and sequenced from cells obtained at 0 and 20 days. Functional clustering of differentially expressed genes, and identification of novel transcripts, is performed using bioinformatics. Osteoblast differentiation and mineralization assays are assessed on the ground from the 20 day time point by fixing the samples with a 10% Formalin solution while still on board ISS. The fixed samples are stowed at 4°C until return to Earth for analysis.

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Space Applications
Synthetic Bone tests the functionality and effectiveness of a new material that can assist in recovery from bone injuries or dental work during long-term space travel. Determining how well Tetranite integrates with bone cell cultures can also inform general strategies for addressing bone loss in space.

Earth Applications
Synthetic Bone advances understanding of bone adhesive performance, and how bone cells interact with these substances. By removing the constraint of gravity, the experiment expands fundamental understanding of blended biological and synthetic bone repair strategies.

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Operational Requirements and Protocols

The cells and material are flown active in 6 well BioCells to the ISS, via cold stowage assets (37°C) within BioCell Habitat containers that are charged with 5% CO2. Once on board, the BioCell habitats are placed inside Space Automated Bioproduct Laboratory (SABL) with the ACM unit which provides temperature and CO2 control for the cell cultures. The cells are cultured for approximately 20 days with periodic media exchanges. Fluid manipulations occur within the Microgravity Sciences Glovebox (MSG), or other appropriate location. Necessary accessory hardware and kits for these operations and procedures are included in the suite of support items. Once the cultures have grown for a predetermined amount of time, the samples are fixed with a 10% Formalin solution, and stowed at 4°C until return to Earth. Used media exchange and fixative kits, other than samples, and support kits are discarded once used on board ISS.

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Decadal Survey Recommendations

Information Pending

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Results/More Information

Information Pending

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Related Websites

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