Students from Amit Oriya Junior High School in Beer Sheva Collaborate with BGU Levaot Lab to Win Ramon Spacelab Competition and Send Experiment to Space

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Under challenging circumstances, students from the 8th grade classes at the Amit Oriya Junior High School in Beer Sheva have achieved a remarkable feat by winning first place in the Ramon Spacelab 2024 finals. The winning experiment was developed with BGU researchers Dr. Noam Levaot and Dr. Chen Abramovitch-Dahan from the Levaot Lab for Skeletal Biology and Medicine in the Faculty of Health Sciences and Prof. Niv Papo from the National Institute for Biotechnology in the Negev at BGU. Named after Israel's first astronaut, Ilan Ramon, the Ramon Spacelab is Israel's leading educational program in the field of space. 16 schools from across the country participated in the finals in Jerusalem and presented their experiments in front of astronauts, government ministers, NASA and Israeli Space Agency officials and representatives.

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Students from Amit Oriyah were interested in exploring ways to combat the effects of gravity on bone metabolism which may cause bone loss, a common phenomenon experienced by astronauts. In the absence of Earth's gravitational force, bone cells adapt their functions: cells responsible for bone formation decelerate, whereas those involved in bone degradation continue their normal activity. As a result, the breakdown of bone tissue surpasses its regeneration, leading to the formation of bones that are weaker and more prone to brittleness. Together with the Levaot Lab and Prof. Papo's consultation, the students developed an experiment to investigate the binding affinity of the drug Denosumab (commonly used to treat osteoporosis) to receptor activator of nuclear factor kappa beta (RANKL) in space.  The experiment will be launched by NASA to the International Space Station in September 2024,  with hopes to contribute valuable insights to scientific research.

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