Research Containing: Microgravity
Space biology provides an opportunity to study plant physiology and development in a unique microgravity environment. Recent space studies with plants have provided interesting insights into plant biology, including discovering that plants can grow seed-to-seed in microgravity, as well as identifying novel responses to light. However, spaceflight experiments are not without their challenges, including limited space, limited access, and stressors such as lack of convection and cosmic radiation. Therefore, it is important to design experiments in a way to maximize the scientific return from research conducted on orbiting platforms such as the International Space Station. Here, we provide a critical review of recent spaceflight experiments and suggest ways in which future experiments can be designed to improve the value and applicability of the results generated. These potential improvements include: utilizing in-flight controls to delineate microgravity versus other spaceflight effects, increasing scientific return via next-generation sequencing technologies, and utilizing multiple genotypes to ensure results are not unique to one genetic background. Space experiments have given us new insights into plant biology. However, to move forward, special care should be given to maximize science return in understanding both microgravity itself as well as the combinatorial effects of living in space.
Due to spaceflight, astronauts experience serious, weightlessness-induced bone loss because of an unbalanced process of bone remodeling that involves bone marrow mes- enchymal stem cells (BMSCs), as well as osteoblasts, osteo- cytes, and osteoclasts. The effects of microgravity on osteo- cells have been extensively studied, but it is only recently that consideration has been given to the role of BMSCs. Pre- vious researches indicated that human BMSCs cultured in simulated microgravity (sim-μg) alter their proliferation and differentiation. The spaceflight opportunities for biomedical experiments are rare and suffer from a number of opera- tive constraints that could bias the validity of the experiment itself, but remain a unique opportunity to confirm and explain the effects due to microgravity, that are only par- tially activated/detectable in simulated conditions. For this reason, we carefully prepared the SCD – STEM CELLS DIFFERENTIATION experiment, selected by the European Space Agency (ESA) and now on the International Space Station (ISS). Here we present the preparatory studies per- formed on ground to adapt the project to the spaceflight constraints in terms of culture conditions, fixation and stor- age of human BMSCs in space aiming at satisfying the biological requirements mandatory to retrieve suitable sam- ples for post-flight analyses. We expect to understand better the molecular mechanisms governing human BMSC growth and differentiation hoping to outline new countermeasures against astronaut bone loss.
PROTEIN CRYSTALLIZATION FOR DRUG DEVELOPMENT: A Prospective Empirical Appraisal of Economic Effects of ISS Microgravity
The paper proceeds as follows. Section two below discusses the topic of protein crystallization in biomedical research as well as our current understanding regarding the contribution of microgravity in developing better quality crystals. Section three addresses possible policy intervention, also including the introduction of a government funded consortium to diffuse risk. Section four outlines a specific model that has recently been developed by RTI International, which provides an interesting quantitative framework for measuring private sector costs. The outcome of this section is essentially a list of needed data and data sources. Finally, Section five concludes.
Suppression of Hydroxycinnamate Network Formation in Cell Walls of Rice Shoots Grown under Microgravity Conditions in Space
Network structures created by hydroxycinnamate cross-links within the cell wall architecture of gramineous plants make the cell wall resistant to the gravitational force of the earth. In this study, the effects of microgravity on the formation of cell wall-bound hydroxycinnamates were examined using etiolated rice shoots simultaneously grown under artificial 1 g and microgravity conditions in the Cell Biology Experiment Facility on the International Space Station. Measurement of the mechanical properties of cell walls showed that shoot cell walls became stiff during the growth period and that microgravity suppressed this stiffening. Amounts of cell wall polysaccharides, cell wall-bound phenolic acids, and lignin in rice shoots increased as the shoot grew. Microgravity did not influence changes in the amounts of cell wall polysaccharides or phenolic acid monomers such as ferulic acid (FA) and p-coumaric acid, but it suppressed increases in diferulic acid (DFA) isomers and lignin. Activities of the enzymes phenylalanine ammonia-lyase (PAL) and cell wall-bound peroxidase (CW-PRX) in shoots also increased as the shoot grew. PAL activity in microgravity-grown shoots was almost comparable to that in artificial 1 g-grown shoots, while CW-PRX activity increased less in microgravity-grown shoots than in artificial 1 g-grown shoots. Furthermore, the increases in expression levels of some class III peroxidase genes were reduced under microgravity conditions. These results suggest that a microgravity environment modifies the expression levels of certain class III peroxidase genes in rice shoots, that the resultant reduction of CW-PRX activity may be involved in suppressing DFA formation and lignin polymerization, and that this suppression may cause a decrease in cross-linkages within the cell wall architecture. The reduction in intra-network structures may contribute to keeping the cell wall loose under microgravity conditions.
Extracellular Lipase and Protease Production from a Model Drinking Water Bacterial Community Is Functionally Robust to Absence of Individual Members
Bacteria secrete enzymes into the extracellular space to hydrolyze macromolecules into constituents that can be imported for microbial nutrition. In bacterial communities, these enzymes and their resultant products can be modeled as community property. Our goal was to investigate the impact of individual community member absence on the resulting community production of exoenzymes (extracellular enzymes) involved in lipid and protein hydrolysis. Our model community contained nine bacteria isolated from the potable water system of the International Space Station. Bacteria were grown in static conditions individually, all together, or in all combinations of eight species and exoproduct production was measured by colorimetric or fluorometric reagents to assess short chain and long chain lipases, choline-specific phospholipases C, and proteases. The exoenzyme production of each species grown alone varied widely, however, the enzyme activity levels of the mixed communities were functionally robust to absence of any single species, with the exception of phospholipase C production in one community. For phospholipase C, absence of Chryseobacterium gleum led to increased choline-specific phospholipase C production, correlated with increased growth of Burkholderia cepacia and Sphingomonas sanguinis. Because each individual species produced different enzyme activity levels in isolation, we calculated an expected activity value for each bacterial mixture using input levels or known final composition. This analysis suggested that robustness of each exoenzyme activity is not solely mediated by community composition, but possibly influenced by bacterial communication, which is known to regulate such pathways in many bacteria. We conclude that in this simplified model of a drinking water bacterial community, community structure imposes constraints on production and/or secretion of exoenzymes to generate a level appropriate to exploit a given nutrient environment.
INTRODUCTION: Postflight postural ataxia reflects both the control strategies adopted for movement in microgravity and the direct effects of deconditioning. Computerized dynamic posturography (CDP) has been used during the first decade of the International Space Station (ISS) expeditions to quantify the initial postflight decrements and recovery of postural stability. METHODS: The CDP data were obtained on 37 crewmembers as part of their pre- and postflight medical examinations. Sensory organization tests evaluated the ability to make effective use of (or suppress inappropriate) visual, vestibular, and somatosensory information for balance control. This report focuses on eyes closed conditions with either a fixed or sway-referenced base of support, with the head erect or during pitch-head tilts (+/- 20 degrees at 0.33 Hz). Equilibrium scores were derived from peak-to-peak anterior-posterior sway. Motor-control tests were also used to evaluate a crewmember’s ability to automatically recover from unexpected support-surface perturbations. RESULTS: The standard Romberg condition was the least sensitive. Dynamic head tilts led to increased incidence of falls and revealed significantly longer recovery than head-erect conditions. Improvements in postflight postural performance during the later expeditions may be attributable to higher preflight baselines and/or advanced exercise capabilities aboard the ISS. CONCLUSIONS: The diagnostic assessment of postural instability is more pronounced during unstable-support conditions requiring active head movements. In addition to supporting return-to-duty decisions by flight surgeons, the CDP provides a standardized sensorimotor measure that can be used to evaluate the effectiveness of countermeasures designed to either minimize deconditioning on orbit or promote reconditioning upon return to Earth.
The environment on the International Space Station (ISS) includes a variety of potential physiologic stressors, including low gravity, elevated exposure to radiation, confined living and working quarters, a heavy workload, and high public visibility. This retrospective study examined medication use during long-duration spaceflights (>30 d). Medication records from 24 crewmembers on 20 missions longer than 30 d over a 10 yr period were examined for trends in usage rates, efficacy, and indication, as well as adverse event quality, frequency, and severity. Results were compared with those from crewmembers on shorter space shuttle missions (>16 d) and other reports of medication use by healthy adults. The most frequently used medications on the ISS were for sleep problems, pain, congestion, or allergy. Medication use during spaceflight missions was similar to that noted on the Space Shuttle and in adult ambulatory medicine, except that usage of sleep aids was about 10 times higher during spaceflight missions. There were also 2 apparent treatment failures in cases of skin rash, raising questions about the efficacy or suitability of the treatments used. Many spaceflight-related medication uses (at least 10%) were linked to extravehicular activities, exercise protocols, or equipment and operationally driven schedule changes. It seems likely that alterations in spaceflight mission operations (schedule-shifting and lighting) or hardware (extravehicular activity suits and exercise equipment) could reduce the need for a sizable fraction of medication uses.
Chemical Potency and Degradation Products of Medications Stored Over 550 Earth Days at the International Space Station
Medications degrade over time, and degradation is hastened by extreme storage conditions. Current procedures ensure that medications aboard the International Space Station (ISS) are restocked before their expiration dates, but resupply may not be possible on future long-duration exploration missions. For this reason, medications stored on the ISS were returned to Earth for analysis. This was an opportunistic, observational pilot-scale investigation to test the hypothesis that ISS-aging does not cause unusual degradation. Nine medications were analyzed for active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) content and degradant amounts; results were compared to 2012 United States Pharmacopeia (USP) requirements. The medications were two sleep aids, two antihistamines/decongestants, three pain relievers, an antidiarrheal, and an alertness medication. Because the samples were obtained opportunistically from unused medical supplies, each medication was available at only 1 time point and no control samples (samples aged for a similar period on Earth) were available. One medication met USP requirements 5 months after its expiration date. Four of the nine (44% of those tested) medications tested met USP requirements 8 months post expiration. Another three medications (33%) met USP guidelines 2-3 months before expiration. One compound, a dietary supplement used as a sleep aid, failed to meet USP requirements at 11 months post expiration. No unusual degradation products were identified. Limited, evidence-based extension of medication shelf-lives may be possible and would be useful in preparation for lengthy exploration missions. Only analysis of flight-aged samples compared to appropriately matched ground controls will permit determination of the spaceflight environment on medication stability.
Concurrent flame growth, spread and extinction over composite fabric samples in low speed purely forced flow in microgravity
As a part of the NASA BASS and BASS-II experimental projects aboard the International Space Station, flame growth, spread and extinction over a composite cotton-fiberglass fabric blend (referred to as the SIBAL fabric) were studied in low-speed concurrent forced flows. The tests were conducted in a small flow duct within the Microgravity Science Glovebox. The fuel samples measured 1.2 and 2.2 cm wide and 10 cm long. Ambient oxygen was varied from 21% down to 16% and flow speed from 40 cm/s down to 1 cm/s. A small flame resulted at low flow, enabling us to observe the entire history of flame development including ignition, flame growth, steady spread (in some cases) and decay at the end of the sample. In addition, by decreasing flow velocity during some of the tests, low-speed flame quenching extinction limits were found as a function of oxygen percentage. The quenching speeds were found to be between 1 and 5 cm/s with higher speed in lower oxygen atmosphere. The shape of the quenching boundary supports the prediction by earlier theoretical models. These long duration microgravity experiments provide a rare opportunity for solid fuel combustion since microgravity time in ground-based facilities is generally not sufficient. This is the first time that a low-speed quenching boundary in concurrent spread is determined in a clean and unambiguous manner.