Myoblast cell cultures have been widely employed in conventional (1g) studies of biological processes because characteristics of intact muscle can be readily observed in these cultured cells. We decided to investigate the effects of spaceflight on muscle by utilizing a well characterized myoblast cell line (L8 rat myoblasts) as cultured in the recently designed Space Tissue Loss Flight Module "A" (STL-A). The STL-A is a "state of the art," compact, fully contained, automated cell culture apparatus which replaces a single mid-deck locker on the Space Shuttle. The L8 cells were successfully flown in the STL-A on the Space Shuttle STS-45 mission. Upon return to earth, reculturing of these spaceflown L8 cells (L8SF) resulted in their unexpected failure to fuse and differentiate into myotubes. This inability of the L8SF cells to fuse was found to be a permanent phenotypic alteration. Scanning electron microscopic examination of L8SF cells growing at 1g on fibronectin-coated polypropylene fibers exhibited a strikingly different morphology as compared to control cells. In addition to their failure to fuse into myotubes, L8SF cells also piled up on top of each other. When assayed in fusion-promoting soft agar, L8SF cells gave rise to substantially more and larger colonies than did either preflight (L8AT) or ground control (L8GC) cells. All data to this point indicate that flying L8 rat myoblasts on the Space Shuttle for a duration of 7-10 d at subconfluent densities results in several permanent phenotypic alterations in these cells.

Kulesh, Anderson, Wilson, Otis, Elgin, Barker, Mehm, Kearney, (1994). Space shuttle flight (STS-45) of L8 myoblast cells results in the isolation of a nonfusing cell line variant. Journal of cellular biochemistry, 1994 Aug;55(4):530-44. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7962182