The first annual Omics-based Research in Microgravity Workshop organized by the ISS National Lab saw commercial and industrial partners from across the map congregate in Cocoa Beach on Sept. 19th and 20th to discuss opportunities that may be realized from conducting high-throughput analysis on the International Space Station National Laboratory (ISS NL) .
The aptly named event was a hotbed of innovative ideas. The term, omics, is a broad reference to any scientific discipline that studies information related to “omes”: the genome (DNA), transcriptome (RNA), proteome (protein), etc. The research can describe how these biological elements behave and interact on a global level in order to determine how the body reacts to a given situation or environmental exposure (e.g., exercise, stress, infection, or cancer).
CASIS is helping to pioneer groundbreaking research on the ISS that is similar to this discipline. For instance, CASIS recently closed a stem cell request for proposals, and through the final awarded research ideas will be in a position to test a variety of gene expressions to benefit humanity. Additionally, CASIS is working with another private company that is intending to use the microgravity elements aboard the International Space Station to test planarian flatworms for enhanced drug therapies and regenerative healing.
Studying an organism’s transcriptome in space reveals how gene expression changes and can be used as a model of disease. For example, gene expression changes related to microgravity-induced bone loss may yield insight into changes that occur in osteoporosis patients on Earth. The space environment is conducive for identifying genes, proteins and other omics factors that could lead to new therapies for disease.
The key topics of this conference included outlining the goals and expectations of omics in space biology and medicine, discussing geneLAB implementation across space biology, presenting data in rodent research and opportunities for cooperation between NASA, CASIS and private partners while building resources for a robust research community.
While this conference was laden with advanced scientific concepts and terminology—in short the main purpose for this event was to demonstrate that station research provides a multitude of avenues for scientific inquiry. the ISS National Lab is attracting researchers from a wide sector of entities ranging from government organizations to academic institutions and commercial companies. The space station is open for business and omics as a specific discipline brings many opportunities for exploration and investigation.
“CASIS was highly encouraged by the level of engagement from these participating entities and through fruitful discussions of this nature, we will be in a position to better understand the complexities and opportunities that exist for station research, ultimately helping to fully utilize the International Space Station” said executive director, Gregory H. Johnson.
As CASIS continues to move forward in its efforts to maximize use of the National Laboratory on the space station, it hopes to continue a strong dialogue with NASA and the commercial sectors to better understand what is capable on our nation’s only orbiting laboratory. Most importantly, through meetings of this nature, it helps to build understanding on where interest might lie so that a strategic outreach campaign can be developed to engage non-traditional users of the space station and outline the benefits that exist through testing in microgravity.