Meyer Orthodontics in Brookings Blog

AAO Funded Research Puts Mice in Space

international space station

Your local orthodontist’s primary concern is staying up to date on the latest orthodontic treatments so that they can offer the best treatment in their community. But as part of the orthodontic community, we’re thinking much bigger.

In the mid 90’s, the American Association of Orthodontics Foundation funded a study concerning bone loss, led by then junior faculty member Dr. Ting. Today, Dr. Ting is professor and chair in the Section of Orthodontics at UCLA School of Dentistry and member of the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO). His study has seen great success, leading to the discovery of NELL-1, a bone-forming molecule. This lead to a National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant and, finally, a space station project!

On June 6, forty rodents arrived at the International Space Station to live in a microgravity environment. Astronauts on the space station and scientists on Earth will collaborate to test a potential new therapy for accelerating bone growth in humans. This first ever test of NELL-1 is also one of the first mammalian studies taking place on the space station.

The International Space Station (ISS) study will test the NELL-1 molecule and its unique ability to prevent bone degeneration. This doesn’t only benefit astronauts! The results of the study could lead to better treatment for patients with osteoporosis, a significant health issue commonly associated with “skeletal disuse” conditions such as immobilization, stroke, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, spinal cord injury, and jaw resorption after tooth loss.

Watch this short video to learn more about the impact space has on bones and see how NELL-1 may be able to improve life for astronauts, osteoporosis patients and those suffering serious bone injury.

At Meyer Orthodontics, we’re proud of the work Dr. Ting and the AAO are doing. But we’ll leave the rodents in space to them and ISS, while we continue to serve our Brookings and Madison communities.