UCLA Study Will Send Rodents Into Space

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CASIS is funding a UCLA study on bone formation. The research involves sending rodents into space to study the effect on their bones.

WESTWOOD—The government-funded Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) announced they are funding research headed by UCLA scientists that will study bone growth in space.

Dr. Chia Soo, a UCLA professor of plastic and reconstructive surgery and orthopedic surgery, will be leading the research, along with Dr. Kang Ting, a professor of dentistry; Dr. Ben Wu, a professor of bioengineering and dentistry; and Dr. Jin Hee Kwak, an assistant professor of dentistry.

The study is centered on a bone-forming molecule, NELL-1, which was discovered by Dr. Ting in 1999. Building on Dr. Ting’s discovery, Dr. Wu discovered how to modify NELL-1 to treat osteoporosis, a disease which causes bones to become weak and brittle.

Prolonged space flights induce extreme changes in bone and organ systems that cannot be replicated on Earth, according to the UCLA news release. The research will involve sending rodents, which are known to carry a similar protein, to the international space station for observation.

“NELL-1 holds tremendous hope not only for preventing bone loss, but one day even restoring healthy bone,” said Dr. Ting. “For patients who are bed-bound and suffering from bone loss, it could be life-changing.”

Dr. Soo stated, “This research has enormous translational application for astronauts in space flight and for patients on Earth who have osteoporosis or other bone-loss problems from disease, illness or trauma,.” He added, “We very much appreciate the dedicated review staff at CASIS and the Center for Scientific Review, the portal for NIH grant applications, who made this effort possible.”

Other funders and supporters of the research include the National Institute of Health, which funded Dr. Ting’s initial study, the Eli and Edythe Broad Center of Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research at UCLA, the UCLA School of Dentistry, UCLA department of orthopedic surgery, and the UCLA Orthopedic Hospital Research Center.