Team Canopus, formed by second year students from the Diploma in Biomedical Science (DBS), was awarded the second runner up prize in the Singapore Space Challenge (SSC) 2014. The SSC is a prestigious national design competition, which challenges student teams to design and create realistic Space-related projects, organised by the Singapore Space and Technology Association annually.
Team Canopus with their Mentor. From left: Dr Samantha Lee, Jason Ng Jing Qiang (Team leader), Beh Ing Tsyr, Tay Zi Hiang Willis, Chan Jun Wei, Sng Wei Zhi and Chia Yi Mian (absent from picture).
Abstract from winning Team Canopus:
“Space travel is an important and exciting innovation. As resources on Earth are finite, there is a need for space travelling to discover and explore out of the planet and beyond. Space travels to distant planets are limited due to various adverse health effect the space environment can cause to the human body. The lack of gravity causes a significant health effect on the muscles of the human body. Muscle mass and strength deteriorates in microgravity because muscles located around the back and limbs are poorly utilised in such an environment. Astronauts float around in microgravity and do not use their muscles of the lower limbs. The lack of physical activity results in the increased degradation of muscles, leading to a loss of muscle mass. Hence, astronauts visiting distant planets or returning home may injure themselves due to their weakened muscle tone. To prolong human’s stay in the space, a method must be innovated that can effectively tackle the problem of muscle loss in space.
Muscles that maintain posture in the human body are made up of slow twitch skeletal muscles which arise from satellite cells. Satellite cells are pluripotent, that is, it can differentiate into either brown fats or skeletal muscle cells. This process is regulated by the PR Domain containing 16 (PRDM16) gene. When expressed, the PRDM16 gene induces the differentiation of satellite cells into brown fat cells; thereby decreasing the amount skeletal muscles in the body as more progenitor cells are induced to differentiate into brown fat cells. Hence, with this knowledge in mind, our group propose to make use of the down-regulation of PRDM16 gene to increase the rate of muscle growth. By increasing the proportion of satellite cell differentiation into skeletal muscles through the down-regulation of PRDM16 gene, preventing muscle loss in space will be viable.”
Well done, Team Canopus!