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The Effects of Microgravity on Cardiac Function, Structure and Gene Expression using the Drosophila Model (NNX13AN38G)
Principal Investigator
Research Area:
Cell and molecular biology
Species Studied
Scientific Name: Drosophila melanogaster Species: Fruit fly

The detrimental effects of spaceflight on the cardiovascular system are well known. It is believed that these effects may lead to clinically significant risks to astronauts on long duration space missions as well as to the success of these missions themselves. Current studies are limited primarily to human studies and rodent experiments. However, these model systems have significant limitations that may be addressed by using the well-established Drosophila model. Drosophila have previously been successfully launched into space and a ground-based Drosophila model for cardiac disease and function has been developed. However, the genetically versatile Drosophila model has yet to be used for studying the effects of spaceflight on the cardiovascular system.

In this proposal we propose to fly groups of Drosophila aboard the International Space Station for approximately 30 days, along with identical on-board 1-g controls as well as ground controls. The Drosophila will require minimal astronaut intervention involving changing feeding trays on 1 or 2 occasions. The samples will be retrieved post-flight and analyzed using established methods. Heart function, including measurements of diastolic and systolic intervals, heart rate, heart diameters, contractility, and arrhythmias will be recorded. Microscopic and immunohistochemical evaluations of heart morphology will also be carried out. We will also conduct intracellular membrane potential recordings of the heart. Finally, we will analyze mRNA expression with a microarray.

The ultimate goal of this research is to obtain data while validating the Drosophila model for studying the effects of spaceflight on cardiac disease and function. The development of such a model would be a potentially significant advancement in the study and understanding of how spaceflight affects the cardiovascular system, and may ultimately lead to countermeasures to prevent them.

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Martínez-Morentin L, Martínez L, Piloto S, Yang H, Schon EA, Garesse R, Bodmer R, Ocorr K, Cervera M, Arredondo JJ. "Cardiac deficiency of single cytochrome oxidase assembly factor scox induces p53-dependent apoptosis in a Drosophila cardiomyopathy model." Hum Mol Genet. 2015 Jul 1;24(13):3608-22. Epub 2015 Mar 19.

Hateley S, Hosamani R, Bhardwaj SR, Pachter L, Bhattacharya S. Transcriptomic response of Drosophila melanogaster pupae developed in hypergravity. Genomics. 2016 Sep 10. [Epub ahead of print]

Walls S, Diop S, Birse R, Elmen L, Gan Z, Kalvakuri S, Pineda S, Reddy C, Taylor E, Trinh B, Vogler G, Zarndt R, McCulloch A, Lee P, Bhattacharya S, Bodmer R, Ocorr K. Prolonged exposure to microgravity reduces cardiac contractility and initiates remodeling in Drosophila. Cell Rep. 2020 Nov 23. [DOI]

Mission/Study Information
Mission Launch/Start Date Landing/End Date Duration
SpaceX_11 06/03/2017 07/03/2017 30 days

Additional Information
Managing NASA Center
Ames Research Center (ARC)
Responsible NASA Representative
Ames Research Center LSDA Level 3
Project Manager: Sylvain Costes
Institutional Support
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
Proposal Date
Proposal Source
2012 Space Biology NNH12Z