Long-term exposure to microgravity causes oxidative stress in the body, which leads to severe changes in skeletal muscle anatomy and decreased muscle function. This investigation, Nanotechnology Solutions against Oxidative Stress in Muscle Tissue during Long-term Microgravity Exposure (NANOROS), examines the effectiveness of using cerium oxide nanoparticles to counter these muscle changes and the problems with function caused by those changes.
As noticed when crew members return to Earth, long term exposures to microgravity conditions induce severe alterations in skeletal muscle both at an anatomical and a functional/postural level. Several studies on ground have recently shown how oxidative stress, due to the imbalance between production and elimination of oxygen reactive species (ROS), represents an important factor working to the detriment of cell activities. Oxidative stress induced by microgravity may be one of the main reasons for the harmful effects of the microgravity environment on skeletal muscle.
The aim of the Nanotechnology Solutions against Oxidative Stress in Muscle Tissue during Long-term Microgravity Exposure (NANOROS) investigation consists of the elaboration of countermeasures to microgravity-induced oxidative stress, relying on the use of nanotechnological antioxidants, such as cerium oxide nanoparticles (nanoceria). Currently studied as therapeutic solutions in biological systems, ceria nanoparticles, in fact, show electron defects in correspondence of oxygen atoms that represent reactive sites for ROS scavenging. The extreme versatility of nanoceria enables the use of their antioxidant properties, without the need for repetitive administrations.
The results achieved in this investigation can hopefully bring tremendous improvements not only in the quality of life during space missions, but even in the case of several pathologies due to oxidative stress on Earth.