Gravitational Biology

The evolution of life on Earth occurred under the persistent influence of gravity. As gravity is constant with respect to its direction and magnitude, the vectorial information of gravitational acceleration is a most reliable reference point for orientation. Sensors for the gravity stimulus, specialized organelles for gravity sensing and mechanisms for active responses have been found in unicellular organisms as well as in multicellular animal and plant systems. Recent studies support the hypothesis that gravity is perceived either by intracellular receptors (statocyst-like organelles), heavy cell organelles (such as nucleus) and/or by sensing the cell mass by means of ion channels located in the cell membrane. Consequently the question arises about a general gravisensitivity of cells including mammalian cells.

Though severe effects of microgravity on cells (e.g. lymphocytes) have been stated, the development of complex organisms occurs more or less undisturbed under this condition. However, a systematic approach and multi-generation experiments with animals and plants in microgravity are necessary as they are the key players in life support systems which are necessary for long-term manned space missions.

Space simulation facilities

Human Cells

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