Amgen and UCB are collaborating with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to conduct a pre-clinical test of a sclerostin antibody in an experiment that will take place aboard space shuttle Atlantis on the final NASA shuttle mission, Space Shuttle Flight STS-135.
Led by a consortium of scientists from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC), Amgen, Union Chimique Belge (UCB) of Belgium, BioServe Space Technologies and the University of North Carolina, and funded by NASA's Ames Research Center, the research will not only address a serious problem that affects astronauts who spend weeks and months in a low-gravity environment, but may also yield novel insights into the prevention and treatment of skeletal fragility among patients on earth who are less active due to aging or illness.
The loss of bone mass during space flight remains a significant problem for human space missions. This experiment will assess the effect of a sclerostin antibody on the loss of bone associated with space flight in mice. In this experiment of 30 space-flown mice, half of the mice are given the sclerostin antibody and the remaining mice receive a placebo. After the flight, various aspects of the structure, composition, strength, and cell and molecular nature of the bones from the flight and ground-based control mice will be analyzed.
The sclerostin antibody is designed to inhibit the action of "sclerostin," a protein that is a key negative regulator of bone formation, bone mass and bone strength. The findings may also provide insight into potential further research in the prevention and treatment of the skeletal fragility that can result from "skeletal disuse" in such conditions as immobilization, stroke, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, spinal cord injury and reduced physical activity.
"The origin of UCB's sclerostin program was the discovery of the genetic cause of a rare inherited high bone mass condition. This fascinating approach of turning genetic discovery into novel and innovative drug development seems fitting to the collaboration with NASA whose mission is exploration and discovery,” said Professor Iris Loew-Friedrich, chief medical officer and executive vice president of global projects and development at UCB.