Dental Team Investigates Bone Regeneration Therapy in Space
In a collaborative effort, the NASA team from the University of Pittsburg School of Dental Medicine’s INTINILAB is working with a biomedical startup to study the effects of lack of gravity on skeletal stem cells. In experiments conducted during the SpaceX-26 RR25 mission to the International Space Station (ISS) National Laboratory, researchers will test the ability of a special “bone superglue” from RevBio to induce bone regeneration. This agent may be helpful for future long-term space travel, as well as for bone regeneration and treatment of fractures on Earth.
The space station’s microgravity environment presents an ideal test bed, as microgravity has been shown to cause bone loss at an accelerated rate. Previous research has also demonstrated that microgravity blocks stem cells from developing into new cells, which the team proposes could explain why astronauts lose bone mass during spaceflight. The two-pronged investigation will explore how skeletal stem cells (bone-specific postnatal stem cells) are affected by microgravity, and also evaluate RevBio’s novel Tetranite bone adhesive to see if and how it promotes bone regeneration by stimulating skeletal stem cells.
“With this study, we will be able to map what happens with skeletal stem cells in space compared to Earth,” notes Giuseppe Intini, DDS, PhD, principal investigator and an associate professor of periodontics and preventive dentistry at the University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine. “That’s important because previous research indicates microgravity may lock stem cells into an undifferentiated status, which could be what’s causing the decline of bone mass in astronauts.”
Intini says the ISS experiments should aid scientific understanding of how to harness skeletal stem cells for therapeutic uses, which could ultimately lead to better treatments for bone defects and fractures, as well as bone regeneration therapies. The evaluation involves sending 40 mice to the orbiting laboratory, some with a defect in their calvarial bone (the top part of the skull). According to RevBio, its bone adhesive has shown potential for not only repairing fractures and defects, but also helping regenerate bone that’s either low quality or deficient in volume. It is hoped the results will support astronaut health on extended missions, and also lead to new medical and dental therapies — including novel approaches for treating periodontal and dental implant patients.