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Human neural network activity reacts to gravity changes in vitro

  • During spaceflight, humans experience a variety of physiological changes due to deviations from familiar earth conditions. Specifically, the lack of gravity is responsible for many effects observed in returning astronauts. These impairments can include structural as well as functional changes of the brain and a decline in cognitive performance. However, the underlying physiological mechanisms remain elusive. Alterations in neuronal activity play a central role in mental disorders and altered neuronal transmission may also lead to diminished human performance in space. Thus, understanding the influence of altered gravity at the cellular and network level is of high importance. Previous electrophysiological experiments using patch clamp techniques and calcium indicators have shown that neuronal activity is influenced by altered gravity. By using multi-electrode array (MEA) technology, we advanced the electrophysiological investigation covering single-cell to network level responses during exposure to decreased (micro-) or increased (hyper-) gravity conditions. We continuously recorded in real-time the spontaneous activity of human induced pluripotent stem cell (hiPSC)-derived neural networks in vitro. The MEA device was integrated into a custom-built environmental chamber to expose the system with neuronal cultures to up to 6 g of hypergravity on the Short-Arm Human Centrifuge at the DLR Cologne, Germany. The flexibility of the experimental hardware set-up facilitated additional MEA electrophysiology experiments under 4.7 s of high-quality microgravity (10–6 to 10–5 g) in the Bremen drop tower, Germany. Hypergravity led to significant changes in activity. During the microgravity phase, the mean action potential frequency across the neural networks was significantly enhanced, whereas different subgroups of neurons showed distinct behaviors, such as increased or decreased firing activity. Our data clearly demonstrate that gravity as an environmental stimulus triggers changes in neuronal activity. Neuronal networks especially reacted to acute changes in mechanical loading (hypergravity) or de-loading (microgravity). The current study clearly shows the gravity-dependent response of neuronal networks endorsing the importance of further investigations of neuronal activity and its adaptive responses to micro- and hypergravity. Our approach provided the basis for the identification of responsible mechanisms and the development of countermeasures with potential implications on manned space missions.
Author:Johannes Striebel, Laura Kalinski, Maximilian Sturm, Nils Drouvé, Stefan Peters, Yannick Lichterfeld, Rouhollah Habibey, Jens Hauslage, Sherif El Sheikh, Volker Busskamp, Christian Liemersdorf
Parent Title (English):Frontiers in Neuroscience
Publisher:Frontiers Media S.A.
Document Type:Article
Date of first Publication:2023/03/08
Date of Publication (online):2023/04/20
GND-Keyword:Neuronales Netz
Tag:Drop Tower; Electrophysiology; Human Induced Pluripotent Stem Cell (hiPSC)-Derived Neurons; Hypergravity; Microgravity; Multi-Electrode Array (MEA); Neural Network; iNGN
Page Number:14 Seiten
Institutes:Angewandte Naturwissenschaften (F11)
Dewey Decimal Classification:500 Naturwissenschaften und Mathematik
Open Access:Open Access
Licence (German):License LogoCreative Commons - CC BY - Namensnennung 4.0 International