NDRI-Supplied Tissue Rockets to International Space Station to Advance Osteoarthritis Research 

Alan Grodzinsky, ScD, Professor of Biological, Electrical and Mechanical Engineering, MIT

NDRI is helping a team from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) advance cutting-edge research on osteoarthritis (OA), the progressive degeneration of cartilage and bone that can be even more troublesome for astronauts traveling in space than it is for millions who suffer with it back here on Earth.

MIT’s Alan Grodzinsky, ScD, Professor of Biological, Electrical and Mechanical Engineering, and team are studying tissue from NDRI donors to better understand the painful, chronic condition that destroys cartilage, the cushion between bones, and results in painful friction. OA is one of the most common age-related diseases, affecting as many as 30 million Americans. It can also impact healthy young and middle-aged adults following physical trauma, such as a rupture of the ACL or meniscus. By the time OA is diagnosed, changes to the cartilage and other joint tissues are often irreversible.

While current treatments for OA deal mostly with immediate pain relief, Grodzinsky’s team hopes to find drugs that protect healthy cartilage tissue and prevent progressive worsening of the condition. Their research uses NDRI-provided tissue explants of femur cartilage, bone and synovium — a soft-tissue membrane that lines joints, tendon sheaths and bursae. In their lab at MIT, the team harvests the tissue to first simulate a joint injury and then grow the explants in culture.  The team adds the synovium to the cultures, which mimics the inflammatory phase of the disease. This model system allows the lab to test potential drugs that can block the progressive degeneration of damaged cartilage and bone.

Grodsinsky

Grodsinsky

OA research is of particular interest to NASA because astronauts suffer a higher rate of joint injuries during their mission period — ranging from intense pre-flight physical training, to their time on the International Space Station and physiologic recovery upon return from orbit — than do people on Earth. The researchers believe this may be because microgravity and ionizing radiation induce tissue inflammation.

To test this theory, Grodzinsky’s team recently sent its experimental model via SpaceX for a one-month study on the International Space Station.

“NDRI has long been a trusted and ready source of donated tissue to help researchers find cures and improve quality of life for so many. Dr. Grodzinsky’s space research propels organ and tissue research to a whole new dimension with endless possibilities.”

- Melissa VonDran, Director, Scientific Services, NDRI

 

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