Institute of Aerospace Medicine
Area of research:
Diploma & Master Thesis
Gravity has shaped life on Earth throughout evolution. Consequently, organisms have developed mechanisms to perceive gravity and to use this cue for spatial orientation. Moreover, gravity or lack thereof profoundly affects physiology in single cells and in complex organisms including human beings. For example, microgravity (weightlessness) during space travel elicits changes in skin wound healing, neural and immune and functions, muscle and bone loss, and cardiovascular deconditioning. These changes are likely explained by direct and indirect influences of gravity on cells. However, the molecular mechanisms mediating these responses are not fully understood. You will work in an interdisciplinary environment at the DLR Institute of Aerospace Medicine in Cologne, Germany. This project “Woundhealing” is part of the AGBRESA (https://www.dlr.de/dlr/de/desktopdefault.aspx/tabid-10081/151_read-32849/#/gallery/33790) bedrest study from DLR, ESA and NASA.
In your thesis, you will harvest primary adult human fibroblasts and keratinocytes from human subjects and culture them in vitro followed by wound healing assays and analysis.
Adult human subjects will be exposed to 60 days of head down tilt bedrest during the AGBRESA study mimicking muscle and bone loss similar to the exposure of astronauts in weightlessness. The novelty in this study is the countermeasure against the negative effects of bedrest by daily centrifugation on the short-arm human centrifuge of the DLR. The subjects will undergo regular biopsies of muscle and skin tissues, from adult human fibroblasts and keratinocytes are isolated and cultured in vitro. You will apply novel primary human cell culture techniques as well as our unique research platforms – clinostats and centrifuges – to simulate microgravity and produce hypergravity on cultured cells, respectively. This will require cell isolation and cultivation following the respective biopsies. During your project/bachelor thesis, you will learn to apply wound healing assays, biochemical analyses, such as qPCR and Western blot, analyze the data and statistically verify the results. Additionally, wound healing marker analysis from blood samples can be included to supplement your data. Live-cell imaging will give you insights to cell intrinsic mechanisms and adaptations, such as the migration rate of the fibroblasts that are derived from the different subjects. Your project/bachelor thesis will contribute to a more detailed understanding how gravity triggers changes in cellular function and development.
Your thesis will be carried out as a Bachelor and/or project thesis of the University of Bonn but nonetheless located in the DLR Institute of Aerospace Medicine.