Publications by authors named "Alessandra Ruggiu"

10 Publications

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Platelet Lysate Induces in Human Osteoblasts Resumption of Cell Proliferation and Activation of Pathways Relevant for Revascularization and Regeneration of Damaged Bone.

Int J Mol Sci 2020 Jul 20;21(14). Epub 2020 Jul 20.

Department of Internal Medicine (DIMI), University of Genova, 16132 Genova, Italy.

To understand the regenerative effect of platelet-released molecules in bone repair one should investigate the cascade of events involving the resident osteoblast population during the reconstructive process. Here the in vitro response of human osteoblasts to a platelet lysate (PL) stimulus is reported. Quiescent or very slow dividing osteoblasts showed a burst of proliferation after PL stimulation and returned to a none or very slow dividing condition when the PL was removed. PL stimulated osteoblasts maintained a differentiation capability in vitro and in vivo when tested in absence of PL. Since angiogenesis plays a crucial role in the bone healing process, we investigated in PL stimulated osteoblasts the activation of hypoxia-inducible factor 1-alpha (HIF-1α) and signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 (STAT3) pathways, involved in both angiogenesis and bone regeneration. We observed phosphorylation of STAT3 and a strong induction, nuclear translocation and DNA binding of HIF-1α. In agreement with the induction of HIF-1α an enhanced secretion of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) occurred. The double effect of the PL on quiescent osteoblasts, i.e., resumption of proliferation and activation of pathways promoting both angiogenesis and bone formation, provides a rationale to the application of PL as therapeutic agent in post-traumatic bone repair.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/ijms21145123DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7403959PMC
July 2020

High-Resolution X-Ray Tomography: A 3D Exploration Into the Skeletal Architecture in Mouse Models Submitted to Microgravity Constraints.

Front Physiol 2018 6;9:181. Epub 2018 Mar 6.

Dipartimento di Medicina Sperimentale, Universita' di Genova and Ospedale Policlinico San Martino, Genova, Italy.

Bone remodeling process consists in a slow building phase and in faster resorption with the objective to maintain a functional skeleton locomotion to counteract the Earth gravity. Thus, during spaceflights, the skeleton does not act against gravity, with a rapid decrease of bone mass and density, favoring bone fracture. Several studies approached the problem by imaging the bone architecture and density of cosmonauts returned by the different spaceflights. However, the weaknesses of the previously reported studies was two-fold: on the one hand the research suffered the small statistical sample size of almost all human spaceflight studies, on the other the results were not fully reliable, mainly due to the fact that the observed bone structures were small compared with the spatial resolution of the available imaging devices. The recent advances in high-resolution X-ray tomography have stimulated the study of weight-bearing skeletal sites by novel approaches, mainly based on the use of the mouse and its various strains as an animal model, and sometimes taking advantage of the synchrotron radiation support to approach studies of 3D bone architecture and mineralization degree mapping at different hierarchical levels. Here we report the first, to our knowledge, systematic review of the recent advances in studying the skeletal bone architecture by high-resolution X-ray tomography after submission of mice models to microgravity constrains.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fphys.2018.00181DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5859385PMC
March 2018

Effects of long time exposure to simulated micro- and hypergravity on skeletal architecture.

J Mech Behav Biomed Mater 2015 Nov 23;51:1-12. Epub 2015 Jun 23.

Dipartimento di Medicina Sperimentale, Universita' di Genova & IRCCS AOU San Martino-IST, Istituto Nazionale per la Ricerca sul Cancro, Genova, Italy. Electronic address:

This manuscript reports the structural alterations occurring in mice skeleton as a consequence of the longest-term exposition (90 days) to simulated microgravity (hindlimb unloading) and hypergravity (2g) ever tested. Bone microstructural features were investigated by means of standard Cone Beam X-ray micro-CT, Synchrotron Radiation micro-CT and histology. Morphometric analysis confirmed deleterious bone architectural changes in lack of mechanical loading with a decrease of bone volume and density, while bone structure alterations caused by hypergravity were less evident. In the femurs from hypergravity-exposed mice, the head/neck cortical thickness increment was the main finding. In addition, in these mice the rate of larger trabeculae (60-75 μm) was significantly increased. Interestingly, the metaphyseal plate presented a significant adaptation to gravity changes. Mineralization of cartilage and bone deposition was increased in the 2g mice, whereas an enlargement of the growth plate cartilage was observed in the hindlimb unloaded group. Indeed, the presented data confirm and reinforce the detrimental effects on bone observed in real space microgravity and reveal region-specific effects on long bones. Finally these data could represent the starting point for further long-term experimentations that can deeply investigate the bone adaptation mechanisms to different mechanical force environments.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jmbbm.2015.06.014DOI Listing
November 2015

Skin physiology in microgravity: a 3-month stay aboard ISS induces dermal atrophy and affects cutaneous muscle and hair follicles cycling in mice.

NPJ Microgravity 2015 27;1:15002. Epub 2015 May 27.

Laboratory of Connective Tissues Biology, GIGA-Research, University of Liège, Sart Tilman, Belgium.

Aims: The Mice Drawer System (MDS) Tissue Sharing program was the longest rodent space mission ever performed. It provided 20 research teams with organs and tissues collected from mice having spent 3 months on the International Space Station (ISS). Our participation to this experiment aimed at investigating the impact of such prolonged exposure to extreme space conditions on mouse skin physiology.

Methods: Mice were maintained in the MDS for 91 days aboard ISS (space group (S)). Skin specimens were collected shortly after landing for morphometric, biochemical, and transcriptomic analyses. An exact replicate of the experiment in the MDS was performed on ground (ground group (G)).

Results: A significant reduction of dermal thickness (-15%, =0.05) was observed in S mice accompanied by an increased newly synthetized procollagen (+42%, =0.03), likely reflecting an increased collagen turnover. Transcriptomic data suggested that the dermal atrophy might be related to an early degradation of defective newly formed procollagen molecules. Interestingly, numerous hair follicles in growing anagen phase were observed in the three S mice, validated by a high expression of specific hair follicles genes, while only one mouse in the G controls showed growing hairs. By microarray analysis of whole thickness skin, we observed a significant modulation of 434 genes in S versus G mice. A large proportion of the upregulated transcripts encoded proteins related to striated muscle homeostasis.

Conclusions: These data suggest that a prolonged exposure to space conditions may induce skin atrophy, deregulate hair follicle cycle, and markedly affect the transcriptomic repertoire of the cutaneous striated muscle panniculus carnosus.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/npjmgrav.2015.2DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5515501PMC
May 2015

Bone mechanobiology, gravity and tissue engineering: effects and insights.

J Tissue Eng Regen Med 2015 Dec 23;9(12):1339-51. Epub 2014 Jul 23.

University of Genova, Department of Experimental Medicine & IRCCS AOU San Martino-IST, National Institute for Cancer Research, Genova, Italy.

Bone homeostasis strongly depends on fine tuned mechanosensitive regulation signals from environmental forces into biochemical responses. Similar to the ageing process, during spaceflights an altered mechanotransduction occurs as a result of the effects of bone unloading, eventually leading to loss of functional tissue. Although spaceflights represent the best environment to investigate near-zero gravity effects, there are major limitations for setting up experimental analysis. A more feasible approach to analyse the effects of reduced mechanostimulation on the bone is represented by the 'simulated microgravity' experiments based on: (1) in vitro studies, involving cell cultures studies and the use of bioreactors with tissue engineering approaches; (2) in vivo studies, based on animal models; and (3) direct analysis on human beings, as in the case of the bed rest tests. At present, advanced tissue engineering methods allow investigators to recreate bone microenvironment in vitro for mechanobiology studies. This group and others have generated tissue 'organoids' to mimic in vitro the in vivo bone environment and to study the alteration cells can go through when subjected to unloading. Understanding the molecular mechanisms underlying the bone tissue response to mechanostimuli will help developing new strategies to prevent loss of tissue caused by altered mechanotransduction, as well as identifying new approaches for the treatment of diseases via drug testing. This review focuses on the effects of reduced gravity on bone mechanobiology by providing the up-to-date and state of the art on the available data by drawing a parallel with the suitable tissue engineering systems.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/term.1942DOI Listing
December 2015

Effects of pleiotrophin overexpression on mouse skeletal muscles in normal loading and in actual and simulated microgravity.

PLoS One 2013 28;8(8):e72028. Epub 2013 Aug 28.

Section of Pharmacology, Department of Pharmacy & Drug Sciences, University of Bari - Aldo Moro, Bari, Italy.

Pleiotrophin (PTN) is a widespread cytokine involved in bone formation, neurite outgrowth, and angiogenesis. In skeletal muscle, PTN is upregulated during myogenesis, post-synaptic induction, and regeneration after crushing, but little is known regarding its effects on muscle function. Here, we describe the effects of PTN on the slow-twitch soleus and fast-twitch extensor digitorum longus (EDL) muscles in mice over-expressing PTN under the control of a bone promoter. The mice were maintained in normal loading or disuse condition, induced by hindlimb unloading (HU) for 14 days. Effects of exposition to near-zero gravity during a 3-months spaceflight (SF) into the Mice Drawer System are also reported. In normal loading, PTN overexpression had no effect on muscle fiber cross-sectional area, but shifted soleus muscle toward a slower phenotype, as shown by an increased number of oxidative type 1 fibers, and increased gene expression of cytochrome c oxidase subunit IV and citrate synthase. The cytokine increased soleus and EDL capillary-to-fiber ratio. PTN overexpression did not prevent soleus muscle atrophy, slow-to-fast transition, and capillary regression induced by SF and HU. Nevertheless, PTN exerted various effects on sarcolemma ion channel expression/function and resting cytosolic Ca(2+) concentration in soleus and EDL muscles, in normal loading and after HU. In conclusion, the results show very similar effects of HU and SF on mouse soleus muscle, including activation of specific gene programs. The EDL muscle is able to counterbalance this latter, probably by activating compensatory mechanisms. The numerous effects of PTN on muscle gene expression and functional parameters demonstrate the sensitivity of muscle fibers to the cytokine. Although little benefit was found in HU muscle disuse, PTN may emerge useful in various muscle diseases, because it exerts synergetic actions on muscle fibers and vessels, which could enforce oxidative metabolism and ameliorate muscle performance.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0072028PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3756024PMC
May 2014

The effect of Platelet Lysate on osteoblast proliferation associated with a transient increase of the inflammatory response in bone regeneration.

Biomaterials 2013 Dec 5;34(37):9318-30. Epub 2013 Sep 5.

Dept. of Experimental Medicine (DIMES), University of Genoa, L.go R. Benzi 10, Genoa 16132, Italy; AOU San Martino-IST National Cancer Research Institute, L.go R. Benzi 10, Genoa 16132, Italy.

Platelet Lysate (PL) contains a cocktail of growth factors and cytokines, which actively participates in tissue repair and its clinical application has been broadly described. The aim of this study was to assess the regenerative potential of PL for bone repair. We demonstrated that PL stimulation induces a transient increase of the inflammatory response in quiescent human osteoblasts, via NF-kB activation, COX-2 induction, PGE2 production and secretion of pro-inflammatory cytokines. Furthermore, we showed that long-term PL stimulation enhances proliferation of actively replicating osteoblasts, without affecting their differentiation potential, along with changes of cell morphology, resulting in increased cell density at confluence. In confluent resting osteoblasts, PL treatment induced resumption of proliferation, change in cell morphology and increase of cell density at confluence. A burst of PL treatment (24-h) was sufficient to trigger such processes in both conditions. These results correlated with up-regulation of the proliferative and survival pathways ERKs and Akt and with cell cycle re-activation via induction of CyclinD1 and phosphorylation of Rb, following PL stimulation. Our findings demonstrate that PL treatment results in activation and expansion of resting osteoblasts, without affecting their differentiation potential. Therefore PL represents a good therapeutic candidate in regenerative medicine for bone repair.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.biomaterials.2013.08.018DOI Listing
December 2013

Extracellular matrix deposition and scaffold biodegradation in an in vitro three-dimensional model of bone by X-ray computed microtomography.

J Tissue Eng Regen Med 2014 Jul 22;8(7):557-65. Epub 2012 Jun 22.

Università degli Studi di Genova & Istituto Nazionale per la Ricerca sul Cancro, Genova, Italy.

The development of an in vitro model of bone and the optimization of tools for determining the biological processes occurring during bone repair remains a major goal in the field of bone tissue engineering. Recently, a model based on a three-dimensional co-culture of osteoblasts and osteoclast precursors in Skelite(TM) scaffolds was developed. Although induction of osteoblast and osteoclast differentiation was observed, a complete evaluation of bone deposition and biodegradation processes was missing due to technical limitations. In the current study, both X-ray computed microtomography and histological analysis were used to monitor these two key biological processes in the same in vitro model. Either osteoblasts or a combination of osteoblasts and osteoclasts were seeded on Skelite(TM) scaffolds. Scaffold biodegradation and increased bone deposition together with a more organized extracellular matrix were observed in the co-cultures, highlighting the role of osteoclasts in the determination and regulation of bone deposition. Results confirmed the potential and relevance of co-culturing osteoblasts and osteoclasts to resemble native tissue. The combination of X-ray computed microtomography and histology presented in this study could be useful in future studies for the validation and development of new in vitro culture systems for bone tissue engineering.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/term.1559DOI Listing
July 2014

The Mice Drawer System (MDS) experiment and the space endurance record-breaking mice.

PLoS One 2012 29;7(5):e32243. Epub 2012 May 29.

Universita' degli Studi di Genova & Istituto Nazionale per la Ricerca sul Cancro, Genova, Italy.

The Italian Space Agency, in line with its scientific strategies and the National Utilization Plan for the International Space Station (ISS), contracted Thales Alenia Space Italia to design and build a spaceflight payload for rodent research on ISS: the Mice Drawer System (MDS). The payload, to be integrated inside the Space Shuttle middeck during transportation and inside the Express Rack in the ISS during experiment execution, was designed to function autonomously for more than 3 months and to involve crew only for maintenance activities. In its first mission, three wild type (Wt) and three transgenic male mice over-expressing pleiotrophin under the control of a bone-specific promoter (PTN-Tg) were housed in the MDS. At the time of launch, animals were 2-months old. MDS reached the ISS on board of Shuttle Discovery Flight 17A/STS-128 on August 28(th), 2009. MDS returned to Earth on November 27(th), 2009 with Shuttle Atlantis Flight ULF3/STS-129 after 91 days, performing the longest permanence of mice in space. Unfortunately, during the MDS mission, one PTN-Tg and two Wt mice died due to health status or payload-related reasons. The remaining mice showed a normal behavior throughout the experiment and appeared in excellent health conditions at landing. During the experiment, the mice health conditions and their water and food consumption were daily checked. Upon landing mice were sacrificed, blood parameters measured and tissues dissected for subsequent analysis. To obtain as much information as possible on microgravity-induced tissue modifications, we organized a Tissue Sharing Program: 20 research groups from 6 countries participated. In order to distinguish between possible effects of the MDS housing conditions and effects due to the near-zero gravity environment, a ground replica of the flight experiment was performed at the University of Genova. Control tissues were collected also from mice maintained on Earth in standard vivarium cages.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0032243PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3362598PMC
October 2012

Bone turnover in wild type and pleiotrophin-transgenic mice housed for three months in the International Space Station (ISS).

PLoS One 2012 15;7(3):e33179. Epub 2012 Mar 15.

Dipartimento di Oncologia, Biologia e Genetica, Università degli Studi di Genova, Genova, Italy.

Bone is a complex dynamic tissue undergoing a continuous remodeling process. Gravity is a physical force playing a role in the remodeling and contributing to the maintenance of bone integrity. This article reports an investigation on the alterations of the bone microarchitecture that occurred in wild type (Wt) and pleiotrophin-transgenic (PTN-Tg) mice exposed to a near-zero gravity on the International Space Station (ISS) during the Mice Drawer System (MDS) mission, to date, the longest mice permanence (91 days) in space. The transgenic mouse strain over-expressing pleiotrophin (PTN) in bone was selected because of the PTN positive effects on bone turnover. Wt and PTN-Tg control animals were maintained on Earth either in a MDS payload or in a standard vivarium cage. This study revealed a bone loss during spaceflight in the weight-bearing bones of both strains. For both Tg and Wt a decrease of the trabecular number as well as an increase of the mean trabecular separation was observed after flight, whereas trabecular thickness did not show any significant change. Non weight-bearing bones were not affected. The PTN-Tg mice exposed to normal gravity presented a poorer trabecular organization than Wt mice, but interestingly, the expression of the PTN transgene during the flight resulted in some protection against microgravity's negative effects. Moreover, osteocytes of the Wt mice, but not of Tg mice, acquired a round shape, thus showing for the first time osteocyte space-related morphological alterations in vivo. The analysis of specific bone formation and resorption marker expression suggested that the microgravity-induced bone loss was due to both an increased bone resorption and a decreased bone deposition. Apparently, the PTN transgene protection was the result of a higher osteoblast activity in the flight mice.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0033179PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3305296PMC
August 2012