Day 2 of the ISSR&D 2017 conference included the “Revolutionizing Science from Ground to Orbit” session with NASA Astronaut Kate Rubins, Dr. Arun Sharma from Harvard Medical School, and Dr. Sarah Wallace from NASA. The session was moderated by CNN’s Space and Science Correspondent, Rachel Crane.
Rubins, who holds a Bachelor of Science in Molecular Biology and a Ph.D. in Cancer Biology, provided highlights of her 150 days in space, including the distinction of being the first person to sequence DNA on the ISS and the exciting moment when she observed beating heart cells while conducting an ISS U.S. National Laboratory experiment.
Two principal researchers participated in this lively discussion and shared their ground-based experience with respect to space-based research design decisions, preparations, and expectations.
Sharma began his investigation on the effects of microgravity on stem cell-derived heart cells as a graduate student project. His space-based observations included changes in stem cells at a genetic level, in cell shape and size, and in the cell’s ability to contract. In addition, he found that heart cells beat differently in microgravity, but returned to a normal contraction rate once back on Earth—an informative observation that may lead to a better understanding cardiac physiology.
Wallace, a microbiologist with NASA’s Johnson Space Center, served as a team member of the Biomolecule Sequencer investigation; her work successfully demonstrated that DNA could be sequenced in space. Prior to DNA sequencing onboard the ISS, accessing results (other than visual) required freezing or fixing the samples in some way, and then transporting them back to Earth. The ability to conduct DNA analysis onboard the ISS in real-time opens up amazing possibilities regarding results free from previously necessary alterations.
This was just one of the many highly informative and inspirational sessions that took place during Day 2 of the ISSR&D conference; stay connected to events and other sessions of interest by downloading the ISSR&D app and visiting the conference website, https://www.issconference.org/.