Extracellular mass transport considerations for space flight research concerning suspended and adherent in vitro cell cultures.
Conducting biological research in space requires consideration be given to isolating appropriate control parameters. For in vitro cell cultures, numerous environmental factors can adversely affect data interpretation. A biological response attributed to microgravity can, in theory, be explicitly correlated to a specific lack of weight or gravity-driven motion occurring to, within or around a cell. Weight can be broken down to include the formation of hydrostatic gradients, structural load (stress) or physical deformation (strain). Gravitationally induced motion within or near individual cells in a fluid includes sedimentation (or buoyancy) of the cell and associated shear forces, displacement of cytoskeleton or organelles, and factors associated with intra- or extracellular mass transport. Finally, and of particular importance for cell culture experiments, the collective effects of gravity must be considered for the overall system consisting of the cells, their environment and the device in which they are contained. This does not, however, rule out other confounding variables such as launch acceleration, on orbit vibration, transient acceleration impulses or radiation, which can be isolated using onboard centrifuges or vibration isolation techniques. A framework is offered for characterizing specific cause-and-effect relationships for gravity-dependent responses as a function of the above parameters.