Technology developed from BBSRC-funded research will be used in experiments on board the International Space Station (ISS), in orbit 150 miles above the Earth.
Alvetex® Scaffold technology, produced by Durham University spin-out company Reinnervate, allows cells to be grown in three dimensions (3D), overcoming problems with two-dimensional (2D) culture methods and offering a more life-like model of how cell populations grow in tissues.
Now a team from Massachusetts General Hospital investigating bone loss during bed rest, in microgravity or through diseases such as osteoporosis, has received funding from the USA's National Institutes of Health and NASA to perform an experiment with bone cells using Alvetex® Scaffold on the space station in 2014.
BBSRC-funded research by Professor Stefan Przyborski and his team at Durham University was crucial to the development of the technology.
Prof Przyborski, the CSO and founder of Reinnervate, said: "We are absolutely delighted that Alvetex® Scaffold has been chosen for such an important and high profile project.
"BBSRC funding has been essential to help develop and demonstrate specific applications for Alvetex® 3D cell culture technology. Particularly the numerous CASE studentships which have been focused on specific applications in neuroscience, stem cell biology, and so on."
Alvetex® technology has proved a hit with researchers, and is increasingly being adopted by the scientific community as evidenced by numerous independent peer-reviewed publications now appearing in the literature.
Prof Przyborski, a BBSRC Innovator of the Year 2013 Finalist, added: "As a cell biologist I use conventional 2D cell culture in plastic Petri dishes to study the growth and differentiation of mammalian cells. Unfortunately cells adapt to their surroundings, flatten and alter their structure and function.
"It is a real problem in biology since in many instances studying flattened 2D cells shows different structural and functional characteristics to cells found in normal 3D tissues. Therefore to avoid this shape change occurring I addressed this problem and invented Alvetex® as a solution.
"3D cell culture and the development of improved cell-based assays is increasingly proving its worth in a wide variety of academic and industrial research areas. The ability to re-create more natural cellular structure, organisation and function in vitro is critical to advancing our understanding of basic cellular biology and the assessment of compound activity in health and disease."