Hong Kong Baptist University participated in the space life-science project on the Tianzhou-1 aircraft

April 20, 2017


MC3T3-E1 osteoblastic cells with stably low CKIP-1 expression, established by the HKBU research team of Law Sau Fai Institute for Advancing Translational Medicine in Bone and Joint Disease led by Prof. Aiping Lyu and Prof. Ge Zhang, were loaded in China’s first cargo spacecraft Tianzhou-1 and launched in April 20, 2017. This research project, aiming at investigating the role of CKIP-1 in the differentiation of osteoblast in microgravity circumstance, is the sub-project of the space life-science project on the Tianzhou-1 aircraft. HKBU is the only offshore tertiary institution to be invited to take part in the study.



 Prof. Ge Zhang and the team members in Wenchang launching base:

 (From left) Dr. Chao Liang, Prof. Ge Zhang,      (From left) Miss. Luyao Wang, Prof. Ge Zhang,

Miss. Luyao Wang                                                  Dr. Chao Liang


The casein kinase 2 interacting protein-1 (CKIP-1) is a previously identified negative regulator of osteoblast activity that could interact with the Smad ubiquitination regulatory factor 1 (Smurf1) to facilitate the ubiquitination and subsequent proteasomal degradation of the signal transducers in canonical BMP pathway. The research team led by Prof. Aiping Lyu and Prof. Ge Zhang further found that the aberrant elevated CKIP-1 expression in osteoblasts could directly inhibit bone formation to contribute to the bone formation reduction during aging as well as in the development of glucocorticoid-induced osteoporosis. On the other hand, the microgravity in space could lead to bone formation reduction, which is one of the biggest challenges to the bone health of astronauts during space traveling. Thus, it is of significance to investigate whether CKIP-1 could also contribute to the microgravity-induced bone formation reduction, which would not only uncover the regulatory mechanism on bone formation in microgravity circumstance, but also provide potential therapeutic strategy for protecting the astronauts from bone loss during space traveling.


The team member Dr. Chao Liang and Ph.D. student Miss. Luyao Wang have designed and established a carbon dioxide-independent MC3T3-E1 osteoblastic cell line with stably low CKIP-1 expression for studying the role of osteoblastic CKIP-1 in microgravity. Furthermore, to load and culture the cells in the bioreactor of the Tianzhou-1 aircraft successfully, in cooperation with the members from the Northwestern Polytechnical University (NPU), Tsinghua University (THU), Chinese Academy of Science (CAS) and other research teams, several biocompatibility experiments and matching experiments were conducted since 2014.  



Prof. Ge Zhang and Prof. Peng Shang from NPU          Research team members of HKBU and NPU:

                              were discussing projects:                (From left) Miss. Tingting Li, Dr. Zhe Wang, Prof. Zhouqi Yang

 (From left) Prof. Peng Shang, Prof. Ge Zhang      of NPU, Dr. Chao Liang, Miss. Luyao Wang of HKBU


Just before the launch, Miss. Luyao Wang had prepared for launching in Wenchang launching base of Hai Nan for more than one month. During this period, another two systematic matching experiments were performed again to perfect the sample-loading skill. After presenting the project of HKBU to Prof. Jianping Zhou who is the designer of China manned space engineering system and other experts in launching base, Miss Luyao Wang was praised.



  Miss. Luyao Wang was preparing osteoblastic cells          Miss. Luyao Wang was reporting the project:

(Left 2) Prof. Jianping Zhou, (Right 1) Miss. Luyao Wang                      


To culture and load the osteoblastic cells for launching, Dr. Chao Liang and Miss. Luyao Wang worked round the clock for a couple of days. All endeavor was for the scientific and reliable results of the project.



Prof. Ge Zhang were discussing project with Dr. Chao Liang and Miss. Luyao Wang 


Just before launching, Prof. Chunli Bai, the dean of Chinese Academy of Science and the honorary professor of HKBU, visited the space life-science laboratories and  discussed the  project of HKBU with Prof. Ge Zhang.




Prof. Chunli Bai visited the space life-science laboratories of Wenchang launching base:
(Left 5) Prof. Peng Shang, (Left 6) Prof. Chunli Bai, (Right 3) Prof. Ge Zhang


Up till now, MC3T3-E1 osteoblastic cells with stably low CKIP-1 expression are healthy according to the photos transmitted from Tianzhou-1. Miss Luyao Wang will then go to Tsinghua University to perform the comparison experiment on earth.




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