Below, explore peer-reviewed journal articles related to ISS National Lab investigations. For a more extensive list of spaceflight-related publications (not limited to ISS National Lab sponsorship), see the International Space Station Research Results Citations on the NASA website.
The Hyperspectral Imager for the Coastal Ocean (HICO) presently onboard the International Space Station (ISS) is an imaging spectrometer designed for remote sensing of coastal waters. The instrument is not equipped with any onboard spectral and radiometric calibration devices. Here we describe vicarious calibration techniques that have been used in converting the HICO raw digital numbers to calibrated radiances. The spectral calibration is based on matching atmospheric water vapor and oxygen absorption bands and extraterrestrial solar lines. The radiometric calibration is based on comparisons between HICO and the EOS/MODIS data measured over homogeneous desert areas and on spectral reflectance properties of coral reefs and water clouds. Improvements to the present vicarious calibration techniques are possible as we gain more in-depth understanding of the HICO laboratory calibration data and the ISS HICO data in the future.
Ionic transport through nanofluidic systems is a problem of fundamental interest in transport physics and has broad relevance in desalination, fuel cells, batteries, filtration, and drug delivery. When the dimension of the fluidic system approaches the size of molecules in solution, fluid properties are not homogeneous and a departure in behavior is observed with respect to continuum-based theories. Here we present a systematic study of the transport of charged and neutral small molecules in an ideal nanofluidic platform with precise channels from the sub-microscale to the ultra-nanoscale (<5?nm). Surprisingly, we find that diffusive transport of nano-confined neutral molecules matches that of charged molecules, as though the former carry an effective charge. Further, approaching the ultra-nanoscale molecular diffusivities suddenly drop by up to an order of magnitude for all molecules, irrespective of their electric charge. New theoretical investigations will be required to shed light onto these intriguing results.
Malignant bone disease (MBD) occurs when tumors establish in bone, causing catastrophic tissue damage as a result of accelerated bone destruction and inhibition of repair. The resultant so-called osteolytic lesions (OL) take the form of tumor-filled cavities in bone that cause pain, fractures, and associated morbidity. Furthermore, the OL microenvironment can support survival of tumor cells and resistance to chemotherapy. Therefore, a deeper understanding of OL formation and MBD progression is imperative for the development of future therapeutic strategies. Herein, we describe a novel in vitro platform to study bone?tumor interactions based on three-dimensional co-culture of osteogenically enhanced human mesenchymal stem cells (OEhMSCs) in a rotating wall vessel bioreactor (RWV) while attached to micro-carrier beads coated with extracellular matrix (ECM) composed of factors found in anabolic bone tissue. Osteoinhibition was recapitulated in this model by co-culturing the OEhMSCs with a bone?tumor cell line (MOSJ-Dkk1) that secretes the canonical Wnt (cWnt) inhibitor Dkk-1, a tumor-borne osteoinhibitory factor widely associated with several forms of MBD, or intact tumor fragments from Dkk-1 positive patient-derived xenografts (PDX). Using the model, we observed that depending on the conditions of growth, tumor cells can biochemically inhibit osteogenesis by disrupting cWnt activity in OEhMSCs, while simultaneously co-engrafting with OEhMSCs, displacing them from the niche, perturbing their activity, and promoting cell death. In the absence of detectable co-engraftment with OEhMSCs, Dkk-1 positive PDX fragments had the capacity to enhance OEhMSC proliferation while inhibiting their osteogenic differentiation. The model described has the capacity to provide new and quantifiable insights into the multiple pathological mechanisms of MBD that are not readily measured using monolayer culture or animal models.
The designation of the International Space Station as a National Laboratory enhances the ability to use the facility for educational objectives. The MIT Space Systems Laboratory and Aurora Flight Sciences started the Zero Robotics program to enable high school students to participate directly in the science conducted aboard the ISS. The program, based on the successful history of the first Robotics Competition, opens development of SPHERES software algorithms to high school students. The team developed an IDE, simulation, and visualization engine for this purpose. The 2010 event took place from September to December. This event was considered a pilot because it was the first time the MIT SPHERES teams supported a nationwide event. The pilot included an application process, from which 24 schools from 19 states were selected. The teams participated in a simulation competition in October, which consisted of a full round-robin. In November the teams were split into three groups, and competed in double-elimination rounds using the MIT ground satellites. The top 10 teams from the two rounds participated in the ISS finals on December 1 6. The success of the 2010 event, which involved over 200 students, provides a promising future for the program.
Calcium-independent phospholipase A 2 β (iPLA 2 β) regulates important physiological processes including inflammation, calcium homeostasis and apoptosis. It is genetically linked to neurodegenerative disorders including Parkinson?s disease. Despite its known enzymatic activity, the mechanisms underlying iPLA 2 β-induced pathologic phenotypes remain poorly understood. Here, we present a crystal structure of iPLA 2 βthat significantly revises existing mechanistic models. The catalytic domains form a tight dimer. They are surrounded by ankyrin repeat domains that adopt an outwardly flared orientation, poised to interact with membrane proteins. The closely integrated active sites are positioned for cooperative activation and internal transacylation. The structure and additional solution studies suggest that both catalytic domains can be bound and allosterically inhibited by a single calmodulin. These features suggest mechanisms of iPLA 2 β cellular localization and activity regulation, providing a basis for inhibitor development. Furthermore, the structure provides a framework to investigate the role of neurodegenerative mutations and the function of iPLA 2 β in the brain.
We recently demonstrated that the CAV1 gene was down-regulated, when poorly differentiated thyroid FTC-133 cancer cells formed spheroids under simulated microgravity conditions. Here, we present evidence that the caveolin-1 protein is involved in the inhibition of spheroid formation, when confluent monolayers are exposed to microgravity. The evidence is based on proteins detected in cells and their supernatants of the recent spaceflight experiment: “NanoRacks-CellBox-Thyroid Cancer”. The culture supernatant had been collected in a special container adjacent to the flight hardware incubation chamber and stored at low temperature until it was analyzed by Multi-Analyte Profiling (MAP) technology, while the cells remaining in the incubation chamber were fixed by RNAlater and examined by mass spectrometry. The soluble proteins identified by MAP were investigated in regard to their mutual interactions and their influence on proteins, which were associated with the cells secreting the soluble proteins and had been identified in a preceding study. A Pathway Studio v.11 analysis of the soluble and cell-associated proteins together with protein kinase C alpha (PRKCA) suggests that caveolin-1 is involved, when plasminogen enriched in the extracellular space is not activated and the vascular cellular adhesion molecule (VCAM-1) mediated cell–cell adhesion is simultaneously strengthened and activated PRKCA is recruited in caveolae, while the thyroid cancer cells do not form spheroids.
The adult rodent spinal cord presents an inhibitory environment for donor cell survival, impeding efficiency for xenograft-based modeling of gliomas. We postulated that mild thermal precondition may influence the fate of the implanted tumor cells. To test this hypothesis, high grade human astrocytoma G55 and U87 cells were cultured under 37°C and 38.5°C, to mimic regular experimental or core body temperature of rodents, respectively. In vitro, 38.5°C-conditioned cells, relative to 37°C, grew slightly faster. Comparing to U87, G55 demonstrated greater response to the temperature difference. Hyperthermal culture markedly increased production of HSP27 in most G55 but only promoted transient expression of cancer stem cell marker CD133 in a small cell subpopulation. We subsequently transplanted G55 cells following 37°C or 38.5°C culture into the C2 or T10 spinal cord of adult female immunodeficient rats (3 rats/each locus/per temperature; total: 12 rats). Systematical analyses revealed that 38.5°C-preconditioned G55 grew more malignantly at either C2 or T10 as determined by tumor size, outgrowth profile, resistance to bolus intratumor administration of 5-fluorouracil (0.1 micromole), and post-tumor survival (P < 0.05; n = 6/group). Therefore, thermal precondition of glioma cells may be an effective way to influence the in vitro and in vivo oncological contour of glioma cells. Future studies are needed for assessing potential oncogenic modifying effect of hyperthermia regimens on glioma cells.
Our primary aim was to determine whether gravity has a direct role in establishing the auxin-mediated gravity-sensing system in primary roots. Major plant architectures have long been thought to be guided by gravity, including the directional growth of the primary root via auxin gradients that are then disturbed when roots deviate from the vertical as a gravity sensor. However, experiments on the International Space Station (ISS) now allow physical clarity with regard to any assumptions regarding the role of gravity in establishing fundamental root auxin distributions. We examined the spaceflight green fluorescent protein (GFP)-reporter gene expression in roots of transgenic lines of Arabidopsis thaliana: pDR5r::GFP, pTAA1::TAA1–GFP, pSCR::SCR–GFP to monitor auxin and pARR5::GFP to monitor cytokinin. Plants on the ISS were imaged live with the Light Microscopy Module (LMM), and compared with control plants imaged on the ground. Preserved spaceflight and ground control plants were examined post flight with confocal microscopy. Plants on orbit, growing in the absence of any physical reference to the terrestrial gravity vector, displayed typically “vertical” distribution of auxin in the primary root. This confirms that the establishment of the auxin-gradient system, the primary guide for gravity signaling in the root, is gravity independent. The cytokinin distribution in the root tip differs between spaceflight and the ground controls, suggesting spaceflight-induced features of root growth may be cytokinin related. The distribution of auxin in the gravity-sensing portion of the root is not dependent on gravity. Spaceflight appears benign to auxin and its role in the development of the primary root tip, whereas spaceflight may influence cytokinin-associated processes.
We report an electro-nanofluidic membrane for tunable, ultra-low power drug delivery employing an ionic field effect transistor. Therapeutic release from a drug reservoir was successfully modulated, with high energy efficiency, by actively adjusting the surface charge of slit-nanochannels 50, 110, and 160 nm in size, by the polarization of a buried gate electrode and the consequent variation of the electrical double layer in the nanochannel. We demonstrated control over the transport of ionic species, including two relevant hypertension drugs, atenolol and perindopril, that could benefit from such modulation. By leveraging concentration-driven diffusion, we achieve a 2 to 3 order of magnitude reduction in power consumption as compared to other electrokinetic phenomena. The application of a small gate potential (±5 V) in close proximity (150 nm) of 50 nm nanochannels generated a sufficiently strong electric field, which doubled or blocked the ionic flux depending on the polarity of the voltage applied. These compel- ling findings can lead to next generation, more reliable, smaller, and longer lasting drug delivery implants with ultra-low power consumption.
We discuss a new inverse model to estimate surface velocity using an image sequence with more than one tracer. The method employs the global optimal solution technique, which covers an image scene with subarrays or tiles, within which both velocity components are specified as bilinear forms. Substitution into the tracer conservation equation for each tracer yields a system of equations for the velocity field, which is constrained to fit the image data in a least-squares sense over the entire image domain. Solution is achieved iteratively by a Gauss-Seidel method. A numerical model is used as a benchmark to examine the accuracy of this new technique. Image pairs from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instruments onboard the NASA Terra and Aqua spacecraft and the hyperspectral imager for the coastal ocean instrument currently onboard the International Space Station are also used to demonstrate the new inverse model with actual ocean data. The derived vector field from MODIS is then compared with the velocity field obtained by the single-tracer technique, and the results are found to be qualitatively equivalent.
As the range and duration of human ventures into space increase, it becomes imperative that we understand the effects of the cosmic environment on astronaut health. Molecular technologies now widely used in research and medicine will need to become available in space to ensure appropriate care of astronauts. The polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is the gold standard for DNA analysis, yet its potential for use on-orbit remains under-explored. We describe DNA amplification aboard the International Space Station (ISS) through the use of a miniaturized miniPCR system. Target sequences in plasmid, zebrafish genomic DNA, and bisulfite-treated DNA were successfully amplified under a variety of conditions. Methylation-specific primers differentially amplified bisulfite-treated samples as would be expected under standard laboratory conditions. Our findings establish proof of concept for targeted detection of DNA sequences during spaceflight and lay a foundation for future uses ranging from environmental monitoring to on-orbit diagnostics.
Collagen and silk materials, in neat forms and as silica composites, were flown for 18 months on the International Space Station [Materials International Space Station Experiment (MISSE)-6] to assess the impact of space radiation on structure and function. As natural biomaterials, the impact of the space environment on films of these proteins was investigated to understand fundamental changes in structure and function related to the future utility in materials and medicine in space environments. About 15% of the film surfaces were etched by heavy ionizing particles such as atomic oxygen, the major component of the low-Earth orbit space environment. Unexpectedly, more than 80% of the silk and collagen materials were chemically crosslinked by space radiation. These findings are critical for designing next-generation biocompatible materials for contact with living systems in space environments, where the effects of heavy ionizing particles and other cosmic radiation need to be considered.
Despite extensive efforts to understand the monogenic contributions to perturbed glucose homeostasis, the complexity of genetic events that fractionally contribute to the spectrum of this pathology remain poorly understood. Proper maintenance of glucose homeostasis is the central feature of a constellation of comorbidities that define the metabolic syndrome. The ability of the liver to balance carbohydrate uptake and release during the feeding-to-fasting transition is essential to the regulation of peripheral glucose availability. The liver coordinates the expression of gene programs that control glucose absorption, storage, and secretion. Herein, we demonstrate that Steroid Receptor Coactivator 2 (SRC-2) orchestrates a hierarchy of nutritionally responsive transcriptional complexes to precisely modulate plasma glucose availability. Using DNA pull-down technology coupled with mass spectrometry, we have identified SRC-2 as an indispensable integrator of transcriptional complexes that control the rate-limiting steps of hepatic glucose release and accretion. Collectively, these findings position SRC-2 as a major regulator of polygenic inputs to metabolic gene regulation and perhaps identify a previously unappreciated model that helps to explain the clinical spectrum of glucose dysregulation.
Synchrony of the mammalian circadian clock is achieved by complex transcriptional and translational feedback loops centered on the BMAL1: CLOCK heterodimer. Modulation of circadian feedback loops is essential for maintaining rhythmicity, yet the role of transcriptional coactivators in driving BMAL1:CLOCK transcriptional networks is largely unexplored. Here, we show diurnal hepatic steroid receptor coactivator 2 (SRC-2) recruitment to the genome that extensively overlaps with the BMAL1 cistrome during the light phase, targeting genes that enrich for circadian and metabolic processes. Notably, SRC-2 ablation impairs wheel-running behavior, alters circadian gene expression in several peripheral tissues, alters the rhythmicity of the hepatic metabolome, and deregulates the synchronization of cell-autonomous metabolites. We identify SRC-2 as a potent coregulator of BMAL1:CLOCK and find that SRC-2 targets itself with BMAL1:CLOCK in a feedforward loop. Collectively, our data suggest that SRC-2 is a transcriptional coactivator of the BMAL1:CLOCK oscillators and establish SRC-2 as a critical positive regulator of the mammalian circa-dian clock.
The deployment of space robots for servicing and maintenance operations that are teleoperated from the ground is a valuable addition to existing autonomous systems, because it will provide flexibility and robustness in mission operations. In this connection, not only robotic manipulators are of great use, but also free-flying inspector satellites supporting the operations through additional feedback to the ground operator. The manual control of such an inspector satellite at a remote location is challenging, because navigation in three-dimensional space is unfamiliar and large time delays can occur in the communication channel. This paper shows a series of robotic experiments, in which free flyers are controlled by astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS). The Synchronized Position Hold Engage Reorient Experimental Satellites (SPHERES) were utilized to study several aspects of a remotely controlled inspector satellite. The focus in this case study is investigating different approaches to human-spacecraft interaction with varying levels of autonomy under zero-gravity conditions.
Synchronized Position Hold Engage Reorient Experimental Satellites (SPHERES) is a formation flight testing facility consisting of three satellites operating inside the International Space Station (ISS). The goal is to use the long term microgravity environment of the ISS to mature formation flight and docking algorithms. The operations processes of SPHERES have also matured over the course of the first seven test sessions. This paper describes the evolution of the SPHERES program operations processes from conception to implementation to refinement through flight experience. Modifications to the operations processes were based on experience and feedback from Marshall Space Flight Center Payload Operations Center, USAF Space Test Program office at Johnson Space Center, and the crew of Expedition 13 (first to operate SPHERES on station). Important lessons learned were on aspects such as test session frequency, determination of session success, and contingency operations. This paper describes the tests sessions; then it details the lessons learned, the change in processes, and the impact on the outcome of later test sessions. SPHERES had very successful initial test sessions which allowed for modification and tailoring of the operations processes to streamline the code delivery and to tailor responses based on flight experiences.
Bacteria grown in space experiments under microgravity conditions have been found to undergo unique physiological responses, ranging from modified cell morphology and growth dynamics to a putative increased tolerance to antibiotics. A common theory for this behavior is the loss of gravity-driven convection processes in the orbital environment, resulting in both reduction of extracellular nutrient availability and the accumulation of bacterial byproducts near the cell. To further characterize the responses, this study investigated the transcriptomic response of Escherichia coli to both microgravity and antibiotic concentration. E. coli was grown aboard International Space Station in the presence of increasing concentrations of the antibiotic gentamicin with identical ground controls conducted on Earth. Here we show that within 49 h of being cultured, E. coli adapted to grow at higher antibiotic concentrations in space compared to Earth, and demonstrated consistent changes in expression of 63 genes in response to an increase in drug concentration in both environments, including specific responses related to oxidative stress and starvation response. Additionally, we find 50 stress-response genes upregulated in response to the microgravity when compared directly to the equivalent concentration in the ground control. We conclude that the increased antibiotic tolerance in microgravity may be attributed not only to diminished transport processes, but also to a resultant antibiotic cross-resistance response conferred by an overlapping effect of stress response genes. Our data suggest that direct stresses of nutrient starvation and acid-shock conveyed by the microgravity environment can incidentally upregulate stress response pathways related to antibiotic stress and in doing so contribute to the increased antibiotic stress tolerance observed for bacteria in space experiments. These results provide insights into the ability of bacteria to adapt under extreme stress conditions and potential strategies to prevent antimicrobial-resistance in space and on Earth.
Healthy immune function depends on precise regulation of lymphocyte activation. During the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Apollo and Shuttle eras, multiple spaceflight studies showed depressed lymphocyte activity under microgravity (μg) conditions. Scientists on the ground use two models of simulated μg (sμg): 1) the rotating wall vessel (RWV) and 2) the random positioning machine (RPM), to study the effects of altered gravity on cell function before advancing research to the true μg when spaceflight opportunities become available on the International Space Station (ISS). The objective of this study is to compare the effects of true μg and sμg on the expression of key early T-cell activation genes in mouse splenocytes from spaceflight and ground animals. For the first time, we compared all three conditions of microgravity spaceflight, RPM, and RWV during immune gene activation of Il2, Il2rα, Ifnγ, and Tagap; moreover, we confirm two new early T-cell activation genes, Iigp1 and Slamf1. Gene expression for all samples was analyzed using quantitative real-time PCR (qRT-PCR). Our results demonstrate significantly increased gene expression in activated ground samples with suppression of mouse immune function in spaceflight, RPM, and RWV samples. These findings indicate that sμg models provide an excellent test bed for scientists to develop baseline studies and augment true μg in spaceflight experiments. Ultimately, sμg and spaceflight studies in lymphocytes may provide insight into novel regulatory pathways, benefiting both future astronauts and those here on earth suffering from immune disorders.
Altered immune function has been demonstrated in astronauts during spaceflights dating back to Apollo and Skylab; this could be a major barrier to long-term space exploration. We tested the hypothesis that spaceflight causes changes in microRNA (miRNA) expression. Human leukocytes were stimulated with mitogens on board the International Space Station using an onboard normal gravity control. Bioinformatics showed that miR-21 was significantly up-regulated 2-fold during early T-cell activation in normal gravity, and gene expression was suppressed under microgravity. This was confirmed using quantitative real-time PCR (n = 4). This is the first report that spaceflight regulates miRNA expression. Global microarray analysis showed significant (P < 0.05) suppression of 85 genes under microgravity conditions compared to normal gravity samples. EGR3, FASLG, BTG2, SPRY2, and TAGAP are biologically confirmed targets and are co-up-regulated with miR-21. These genes share common promoter regions with pre-mir-21; as the miR-21 matures and accumulates, it most likely will inhibit translation of its target genes and limit the immune response. These data suggest that gravity regulates T-cell activation not only by transcription promotion but also by blocking translation via noncoding RNA mechanisms. Moreover, this study suggests that T-cell activation itself may induce a sequence of gene expressions that is self-limited by miR-21.—Hughes-Fulford, M., Chang, T. T., Martinez, E. M., Li, C.-F. Spaceflight alters expression of microRNA during T-cell activation.
Spaceflight impacts cardiovascular function in astronauts; however, its impact on cardiac development and the stem cells that form the basis for cardiac repair is unknown. Accordingly, further research is needed to uncover the potential relevance of such changes to human health. Using simulated microgravity (SMG) generated by two-dimensional clinorotation and culture aboard the International Space Station (ISS), we assessed the effects of mechanical unloading on human neonatal cardiovascular progenitor cell (CPC) developmental properties and signaling. Following 6-7 days of SMG and 12 days of ISS culture, we analyzed changes in gene expression. Both environments induced the expression of genes that are typically associated with an earlier state of cardiovascular development. To understand the mechanism by which such changes occurred, we assessed the expression of mechanosensitive small RhoGTPases in SMG-cultured CPCs and observed decreased levels of RHOA and CDC42. Given the effect of these molecules on intracellular calcium levels, we evaluated changes in noncanonical Wnt/calcium signaling. After 6-7 days under SMG, CPCs exhibited elevated levels of WNT5A and PRKCA. Similarly, ISS-cultured CPCs exhibited elevated levels of calcium handling and signaling genes, which corresponded to protein kinase C alpha (PKCα), a calcium-dependent protein kinase, activation after 30 days. Akt was activated, whereas phosphorylated extracellular signal-regulated kinase levels were unchanged. To explore the effect of calcium induction in neonatal CPCs, we activated PKCα using hWnt5a treatment on Earth. Subsequently, early cardiovascular developmental marker levels were elevated. Transcripts induced by SMG and hWnt5a-treatment are expressed within the sinoatrial node, which may represent embryonic myocardium maintained in its primitive state. Calcium signaling is sensitive to mechanical unloading and directs CPC developmental properties. Further research both in space and on Earth may help refine the use of CPCs in stem cell-based therapies and highlight the molecular events of development.