Students of the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts examine ion channels respectively proteins which respond to mechanical forces on a flight with a sounding rocket. From this research, we expect indicators, how biological cells can perceive forces. This might help to better understand symptoms such as muscle wasting and loss of bone density, which often occur for bedridden patients.
The human body reacts strongly to mechanical loads. Frequent and proper loads are important for health. If a human body ist exposed to weightlessness for a long time, it has several serious impacts on the physiology. Known adjustment processes in human spaceflight are muscle wasting (atrophy) and the reduction of bone density. For bedridden patients and older people similar symptoms can often be discovered. This research experiment should support the understanding of how biological cells can perceive forces. This could help to develop new treatment methods.
Extensive studies have shown that cells perceive external forces through different mechanisms. How exactly these forces are detected by the cells is still unknown. Previous studies have shown that mechanosensitive ion channels could be partly responsible for this phenomenon. Ion channels open themselves under mechanical stress and allow a flow of ions through the cell membrane (see figure 1).
The focus of research in this project is to find out, how weightlessness effects on mechanosensitive ion channels. This project should demonstrate the feasibility of such experiments and bring new insights for science.