Exploring Effects of Microgravity on Embryonic Development, Cell Growth and Differentiation

Chinese Academy of Sciences

Living organisms are inevitably exposed to a prolonged state of microgravity during spaceflight, causing a series of responses to the growth and development of life at various levels from the molecular to the cellular and the whole organism.

Recently, a research team led by Dr. LEI Xiaohua from the Shenzhen Institute of Advanced Technology (SIAT) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences has published an editorial article in Frontiers in Cell and Developmental Biology on June 15 to review the exploration of the effect of microgravity on embryonic development, cell growth and differentiation.

They discussed the impact of the microgravity environment, in particular ground-based simulation-platform microgravity, on the development, cell proliferation and differentiation of living organisms at a molecular, cellular and individual level.

The reviewed articles cover contents related to space life sciences including stem cells, cancer cells, and plant/animal growth in space or simulated microgravity (SMG). These studies highlighted the molecular mechanisms with which these organisms respond and adapt themselves to the microgravity environment.

The team investigated the effect of microgravity on the hematopoietic differentiation of human embryonic stem cells (hESCs). They found that SMG helped hESCs differentiate into hemogenic endothelium progenitors (HEPs) and hematopoietic stem/progenitor cells (HSPC). They also observed that SMG supported the formation of 3D hematopoietic clusters. Mechanistically, SMG upregulated the key hematopoiesis-related gene expression and enriched the key metabolic pathways, including angiogenesis, Heme metabolism, glycolysis, and oxidative phosphorylation.

“Microgravity is not always disadvantageous to the growth, differentiation and development of living organisms, while sometimes microgravity might play a potential role in supporting 3D cell growth, maintenance of stemness in stem cells or specific differentiation of certain types of stem cells,” said Dr. LEI.

Effect of microgravity on embryonic development, cell growth and differentiation: experiments from ground to space. (Image by SIAT)

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