Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)


Biological and Irrigation Engineering

Committee Chair(s)

Elizabeth Vargis


Jon Takemoto


Timothy Taylor


Muscle loss from lack of activity is a serious issue for immobilized patients on Earth and in human spaceflight, where the low gravity environment prevents normal muscle activity. Simulating muscle loss in cultured cells is an important step in understanding how this condition occurs. This work evaluates different means of simulating muscle loss and selects the one that most closely mimics the cellular responses seen in animals and humans.

To simulate the microgravity environment of spaceflight, mouse skeletal muscle cells were grown in a rotary cell culture system (RCCS). Growing the cells within a natural gelled substrate was compared against growing them on the surface of small plastic beads. Changes after culture under simulated microgravity were characterized by assessing proteins and genes known to change during muscle loss. The structure of the cells was also evaluated by microscopy.

The mouse skeletal muscle cells grown on plastic beads in the RCCS had significant changes in multiple key genes associated with muscle loss and demonstrated physical characteristics expected of mature tissue in live animals. This model is a valuable platform for exploring muscle loss mechanisms and testing new drugs.