Published: Sept. 1, 2011 By


Photo courtesy NASA/Bill Ingalls

As the country’s final space shuttle soared into space in July to heightened levels of excitement on the Florida coast, bone loss was the subject of one of five experiments CU-Boulder’s Bioserve Space Technologies sent aloft on Atlantis.

The project tested an antibody to sclerostin in mice. Sclerostin is a protein that has a negative effect on bone formation and mass.

“We can study something in two weeks in microgravity that takes us years to study on Earth,” says assistant mechanical engineering professor Virginia Ferguson (MechEng’93, MS’98, PhD’01).

Whether the experiment is successful in protecting mouse bones from naturally dwindling in space has implications for humans in space and on Earth. Mitigating bone loss will be essential for NASA if it is ever to send astronauts to Mars or an asteroid. The same solution could help the 10 million Americans suffering from osteoporosis or other related conditions.

Since 1991 CU’s BioServe has sent experiments on 39 space shuttle missions.

“No doubt we will be at a low point for U.S. space flight after the shuttle retires, but I look forward to watching the commercial space transportation industry develop . . . and to what exploration missions NASA sets its sights on in the future,” says CU aerospace professor and associate BioServe director David Klaus (PhDAero’94).