When NASA’s space shuttle Endeavour launched on Aug. 8, its payload included the first space-based experiment on a muscle-loss therapeutic, a myostatin inhibitor, which is being developed by Amgen and investigated for its effectiveness in muscle-wasting diseases.
Muscle atrophy affects millions of Americans, and Amgen researchers HQ Han, scientific director, Metabolic Disorders, and David Lacey, senior vice president, Research, who are principal investigators for this project, believe the experiment will add to the knowledge base and contribute to the development of interventions in a wide range of muscle-wasting diseases.
Astronauts experience muscle loss on extended missions in space due to the microgravity environment. Exercise doesn’t fully compensate for muscle loss under these conditions, and there are currently no approved therapeutic measures to alleviate this type of muscle atrophy. The development and approval of a countermeasure could serve millions of patients and be instrumental to the space program for long-duration human exploration missions.
Impacting Muscle Mass
Myostatin inhibitors are molecules that block the activity of myostatin, a naturally occurring protein in the body. In preclinical models, inhibiting myostatin results in an increase in muscle mass or the prevention of loss of muscle mass.
Amgen, in partnership with BioServe, will examine the effectiveness of the experimental myostatin inhibitor in preventing muscle loss in mice exposed to microgravity. The Endeavour shuttle flight is scheduled to last for 11 days.
The experiment aboard NASA flight STS-118 is the second time Amgen has participated in a space shuttle mission. Amgen’s previous study evaluated the effects of osteoprotegerin on bone strength in mice, and was included in a space shuttle payload in 2001. Amgen has collaborated on both of these studies with BioServe, a nonprofit, NASA-sponsored Research Partnership Center at the University of Colorado, Boulder, which is experienced with the technical requirements of conducting studies in space.
To read more about the experiment on NASA’s website, click here.