This week, crew member Ricky Arnold processed samples for a student crystal growth experiment that was launched to the International Space Station on SpaceX CRS-14. The winning students from the 2017 Wisconsin Crystal Growing Competition are growing crystals onboard the ISS National Lab to test their optimized conditions for Earth-based crystallization against microgravity-based crystallization. The students adapted their Earth-based crystallization methods to prepare a flight project and will compare the crystals grown in microgravity with crystals grown on the ground.
Crystals grown in microgravity are often larger and more well-ordered than Earth-grown crystals. Check out some of the ways investigators are using the unique microgravity environment of the ISS National Lab to advance their crystallization research and development:
- A Merck & Co. investigation aimed at growing a crystalline suspension of millions of tiny uniform crystals, toward improving the formulation of the company’s cancer immunotherapy drug, Keytruda®
- Eli Lilly & Co. protein crystallization experiments for structure-based drug design
- An Oak Ridge National Laboratory experiment to crystallize the AChE enzyme, toward developing an improved antidote for nerve gas and pesticide poisoning
- An investigation by The Michael J. Fox Foundation to grow crystals of the LRRK2 protein, a key target in identifying the makeup of Parkinson’s disease