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.
This letter focuses on water-quality estimation in the northern Adriatic Sea using physically-based methods applied to image obtained with the Hyperspectral Imager for the Coastal Ocean (HICO™). Optical properties of atmosphere and water were synchronously measured to parameterise such methods. HICO™-derived maps of chlorophyll-a (chl-a) and suspended particulate matter (SPM) indicated low values, in the range of 0-3 mg m-3 and 0-4 g m-3, respectively, correlating significantly with field data (R2 = 0.71 for chl-a and R2 = 0.85 for SPM). The results, on analysis, identify clear waters in the open sea and moderately turbid waters near the coast due to river sediment discharge and organic matter from coastal lagoons. These findings support the use of HICO™ data to assess water-quality parameters in coastal zones and suggest the feasibility of integrating them with future-generation space-borne hyperspectral images.
Several forces exert an influence on two-phase bubble dynamics under terrestrial conditions, chief among these being those due to buoyancy and surface tension. Under microgravity conditions, the absence of buoyancy forces disrupts bubble dynamics preventing bubbles from detaching from surfaces. The stagnant bubbles form a large vapor mass attached to the surface, leading to a considerable rise in surface temperature. In this study, a mesoscale-engineered surface in the form of saw-toothed structures has been produced that can provide access to liquid pockets across the troughs of the microstructure in microgravity and terrestrial adverse-gravity orientation. The surface is built with intentional nucleation sites that support consistent vapor germination in both environments. Following terrestrial studies on various surface morphologies and under varying degrees of sub cooling, experiments were conducted onboard the International Space Station. The test chambers were square cross-sectioned glass ampoules with deposited thin film nichrome heaters. NASA's implementation partner developed the test and instrumentation hardware to conform to stringent flight requirements. The experimental investigation is titled Asymmetric Sawtooth and Cavity-Enhanced Nucleation-driven Transport (ASCENT) and was conducted in the Pore Formation and Mobility Investigation (PFMI) furnace. The paper discusses high- speed data obtained on vapor motion in microgravity and terrestrial downward-facing environments, providing insight into the differences between a flat surface and the microstructure. The images suggest the existence of a mobility diameter in microgravity, which enables favorable motion across the microstructure in both lateral directions. This mobility contrasts the slug mobility actuated by the sawtooth in the downward-facing terrestrial heater, where changes in the interfacial radius of curvature produce a net lateral motion in the direction of the long slope.
An atomic force microscope (AFM) fundamentally measures the interaction between a nanoscale AFM probe tip and the sample surface. If the force applied by the probe tip and its contact area with the sample can be quantified, it is possible to determine the nanoscale mechanical properties (e.g., elastic or Young's modulus) of the surface being probed. A detailed procedure for performing quantitative AFM cantilever-based nanoindentation experiments is provided here, with representative examples of how the technique can be applied to determine the elastic moduli of a wide variety of sample types, ranging from kPa to GPa. These include live mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) and nuclei in physiological buffer, resin-embedded dehydrated loblolly pine cross-sections, and Bakken shales of varying composition. Additionally, AFM cantilever-based nanoindentation is used to probe the rupture strength (i.e., breakthrough force) of phospholipid bilayers. Important practical considerations such as method choice and development, probe selection and calibration, region of interest identification, sample heterogeneity, feature size and aspect ratio, tip wear, surface roughness, and data analysis and measurement statistics are discussed to aid proper implementation of the technique. Finally, co-localization of AFM-derived nanomechanical maps with electron microscopy techniques that provide additional information regarding elemental composition is demonstrated.
Directed high-speed motion of nanoscale objects in fluids can have a wide range of applications like molecular machinery, nano robotics, and material assembly. Here, we report ballistic plasmonic Au nanoparticle (NP) swimmers with unprecedented speeds (~336,000 μm s-1) realized by not only optical pushing but also pulling forces from a single Gaussian laser beam. Both the optical pulling and high speeds are made possible by a unique NP-laser interaction. The Au NP excited by the laser at the surface plasmon resonance peak can generate a nanoscale bubble, which can encapsulate the NP (i.e., supercavitation) to create a virtually frictionless environment for it to move, like the Leidenfrost effect. Certain NP-in-bubble configurations can lead to the optical pulling of NP against the photon stream. The demonstrated ultra-fast, light-driven NP movement may benefit a wide range of nano- and bio-applications and provide new insights to the field of optical pulling force.
Interest in space habitation has grown dramatically with planning underway for the first human transit to Mars. Despite a robust history of domestic and international spaceflight research, understanding behavioral adaptation to the space environment for extended durations is scant. Here we report the first detailed behavioral analysis of mice flown in the NASA Rodent Habitat on the International Space Station (ISS). Following 4-day transit from Earth to ISS, video images were acquired on orbit from 16- and 32-week-old female mice. Spaceflown mice engaged in a full range of species-typical behaviors. Physical activity was greater in younger flight mice as compared to identically-housed ground controls, and followed the circadian cycle. Within 9–11 days after launch, younger (but not older), mice began to exhibit distinctive circling or ‘race-tracking’ behavior that evolved into a coordinated group activity. Organized group circling behavior unique to spaceflight may represent stereotyped motor behavior, rewarding effects of physical exercise, or vestibular sensation produced via self-motion. Affording mice the opportunity to grab and run in the RH resembles physical activities that the crew participate in routinely. Our approach yields a useful analog for better understanding human responses to spaceflight, providing the opportunity to assess how physical movement influences responses to microgravity.
Future space missions can benefit from processing imagery on board to detect science events, create insights, and respond autonomously. One of the challenges to this mission concept is that traditional space flight computing has limited capabilities because it is derived from much older computing to ensure reliable performance in the extreme environments of space: particularly radiation. Modern commercial-off-the-shelf processors, such as the Movidius Myriad X and the Qualcomm Snapdragon, provide significant improvements in small size, weight, and power packaging; and they offer direct hardware acceleration for deep neural networks, although these processors are not radiation hardened. We deploy neural network models on these processors hosted by Hewlett Packard Enterprise’s Spaceborne Computer-2 on board the International Space Station (ISS). We find that the Myriad and Snapdragon digital signal processors (DSP)/artificial intelligence processors (AIP) provide speed improvement over the Snapdragon CPU in all cases except single-pixel networks (typically greater than 10 times for DSP/AIP). In addition, the discrepancy introduced through quantization and porting of our Jet Propulsion Laboratory models was usually quite low (less than 5%). Models were run multiple times, and memory checkers were deployed to test for radiation effects. To date, we have found no difference in output between ground and ISS runs, and no memory checker errors.
There is evidence that space flight condition-induced biological damage is associated with increased oxidative stress and extracellular matrix (ECM) remodeling. To explore possible mechanisms, changes in gene expression profiles implicated in oxidative stress and in ECM remodeling in mouse skin were examined after space flight. The metabolic effects of space flight in skin tissues were also characterized. Space Shuttle Atlantis (STS-135) was launched at the Kennedy Space Center on a 13-day mission. Female C57BL/6 mice were flown in the STS-135 using animal enclosure modules (AEMs). Within 3?5 h after landing, the mice were euthanized and skin samples were harvested for gene array analysis and metabolic biochemical assays. Many genes responsible for regulating production and metabolism of reactive oxygen species (ROS) were significantly (p < 0.05) altered in the flight group, with fold changes >1.5 compared to AEM control. For ECM profile, several genes encoding matrix and metalloproteinases involved in ECM remodeling were significantly up-/down-regulated following space flight. To characterize the metabolic effects of space flight, global biochemical profiles were evaluated. Of 332 named biochemicals, 19 differed significantly (p < 0.05) between space flight skin samples and AEM ground controls, with 12 up-regulated and 7 down-regulated including altered amino acid, carbohydrate metabolism, cell signaling, and transmethylation pathways. Collectively, the data demonstrated that space flight condition leads to a shift in biological and metabolic homeostasis as the consequence of increased regulation in cellular antioxidants, ROS production, and tissue remodeling. This indicates that astronauts may be at increased risk for pathophysiologic damage or carcinogenesis in cutaneous tissue.
Ocular diseases, such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and glaucoma, have had a profound impact on millions of patients. In the past couple of decades, these diseases have been treated using conventional techniques but have also presented certain challenges and limitations that affect patient experience and outcomes. To address this, biomaterials have been used for ocular drug delivery, and a wide range of systems have been developed. This review will discuss some of the major classes and examples of biomaterials used for the treatment of prominent ocular diseases, including ocular implants (biodegradable and non-biodegradable), nanocarriers (hydrogels, liposomes, nanomicelles, DNA-inspired nanoparticles, and dendrimers), microneedles, and drugloaded contact lenses. We will also discuss the advantages of these biomaterials over conventional approaches with support from the results of clinical trials that demonstrate their efficacy.
The development of space exploration technologies has positively impacted everyday life on Earth in terms of communication, environmental, social, and economic perspectives. The human body constantly fluctuates during spaceflight, even for a short-term mission. Unfortunately, technology is evolving faster than humans’ ability to adapt, and many therapeutics entering clinical trials fail even after being subjected to vigorous in vivo testing due to toxicity and lack of efficacy. Therefore, tissue chips (also mentioned as organ-on-a-chip) with biosensors are being developed to compensate for the lack of relevant models to help improve the drug development process. There has been a push to monitor cell and tissue functions, based on their biological signals and utilize the integration of biosensors into tissue chips in space to monitor and assess cell microenvironment in real-time. With the collaboration between the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and other partners, they are providing the opportunities to study the effects of microgravity environment has on the human body. Institutions such as the National Institute of Health (NIH) and National Science Foundation (NSF) are partnering with CASIS and NASA to utilize tissue chips onboard the International Space Station (ISS). This article reviews the endless benefits of space technology, the development of integrated biosensors in tissue chips and their applications to better understand human biology, physiology, and diseases in space and on Earth, followed by future perspectives of tissue chip applications on Earth and in space.
Microgravity-induced bone loss results in a 1% bone mineral density loss monthly and can be a mission critical factor in longduration spaceflight. Biomolecular therapies with dual osteogenic and anti-resorptive functions are promising for treating extreme osteoporosis. We previously confirmed that NELL-like molecule-1 (NELL-1) is crucial for bone density maintenance. We further PEGylated NELL-1 (NELL-polyethylene glycol, or NELL-PEG) to increase systemic delivery half-life from 5.5 to 15.5 h. In this study, we used a bio-inert bisphosphonate (BP) moiety to chemically engineer NELL-PEG into BP-NELL-PEG and specifically target bone tissues. We found conjugation with BP improved hydroxyapatite (HA) binding and protein stability of NELL-PEG while preserving NELL-1’s osteogenicity in vitro. Furthermore, BP-NELL-PEG showed superior in vivo bone specificity without observable pathology in liver, spleen, lungs, brain, heart, muscles, or ovaries of mice. Finally, we tested BP-NELL-PEG through spaceflight exposure onboard the International Space Station (ISS) at maximal animal capacity (n = 40) in a long-term (9 week) osteoporosis therapeutic study and found that BP-NELL-PEG significantly increased bone formation in flight and ground control mice without obvious adverse health effects. Our results highlight BP-NELL-PEG as a promising therapeutic to mitigate extreme bone loss from long-duration microgravity exposure and musculoskeletal degeneration on Earth, especially when resistance training is not possible due to incapacity (e.g., bone fracture, stroke).
Tissue chip technology has revolutionized biomedical applications and the medical science field for the past few decades. Currently, tissue chips are one of the most powerful research tools aiding in in vitro work to accurately predict the outcome of studies when compared to monolayer two-dimensional (2D) cell cultures. While 2D cell cultures held prominence for a long time, their lack of biomimicry has resulted in a transition to 3D cell cultures, including tissue chips technology, to overcome the discrepancies often seen in in vitro studies. Due to their wide range of applications, different organ systems have been studied over the years, one of which is the blood brain barrier (BBB) which is discussed in this review. The BBB is an incredible protective unit of the body, keeping out pathogens from entering the brain through vasculature. However, there are some microbes and certain diseases that disrupt the function of this barrier which can lead to detrimental outcomes. Over the past few years, various designs of the BBB have been proposed and modeled to study drug delivery and disease modeling on Earth. More recently, researchers have started to utilize tissue chips in space to study the effects of microgravity on human health. BBB tissue chips in space can be a tool to understand function mechanisms and therapeutics. This review addresses the limitations of monolayer cell culture which could be overcome with utilizing tissue chips technology. Current BBB models on Earth and how they are fabricated as well as what influences the BBB cell culture in tissue chips are discussed. Then, this article reviews how application of these technologies together with incorporating biosensors in space would be beneficial to help in predicting a more accurate physiological response in specific tissue or organ chips. Finally, the current platforms used in space and some solutions to overcome some shortcomings for future BBB tissue chip research are also discussed.
Although bone has remarkable regenerative capacity, about 10% of long bone fractures and 25% to 40% of vertebral fusion procedures fail to heal. In such instances, a scaffold is employed to bridge the lesion and accommodate osteoprogenitors. Although synthetic bone scaffolds mimic some of the characteristics of bone matrix, their effectiveness can vary because of biological incompatibility. Herein, we demonstrate that a composite prepared with osteogenically enhanced mesenchymal stem cells (OEhMSCs) and their extracellular matrix (ECM) has an unprecedented capacity for the repair of critical‐sized defects of murine femora.Furthermore, OEhMSCs do not cause lymphocyte activation, and ECM/OEhMSC composites retain their in vivo efficacy after cryopreservation. Finally, we show that attachment to the ECM by OEhMSCs stimulates the production of osteogenic and angiogenic factors. These data demonstrate that composites of OEhMSCs and their ECM could be utilized in the place of autologous bone graft for complex orthopedic reconstructions.
Two experiments were conducted aboard the International Space Station (ISS) in 2008 and 2009 that engaged elementary and middle school teachers and students worldwide in authentic science investigations designed to increase student knowledge of, and interest in, biology and space life science studies and biomedical careers. In the first project, a pilot called Butterflies and Spiders in Space, 1,876 middle school students tested a protocol for comparing, at near-real time, the behaviors of orb-weaver spiders and painted lady butterflies living in microgravity (aboard ISS) to those of comparable subjects in students' classrooms. Teachers reported that, as a result of project activities, 33% of their students designed additional experiments and 80% of students expressed interest in science careers. The second program, Butterflies in Space, enabled students to observe and investigate the life cycle and behaviors of painted lady butterflies living on ISS, and compare them to butterflies being studied in their own classes. Combining this near real-time experiment with hands-on explorations and webbased instructional strategies, Butterflies in Space reached more than 3,000 teachers, representing an estimated 180,000 students (grades 3-6) or more worldwide. It also received international coverage from a variety of media. Investigators at BioServe Space Technologies of the University of Colorado designed and built the chambers in which the spiders and butterflies were housed on ISS, and led technical and logistical operations for both programs. Baylor College of Medicine (BCM) educators and scientists developed the education framework and managed the web-based distribution of project data and teaching resources.
The nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, a popular organism for biological studies, is being developed as a model system for space biology. The chemically defined liquid medium, C. elegans Maintenance Medium (CeMM), allows axenic cultivation and automation of experiments that are critical for spaceflight research. To validate CeMM for use during spaceflight, we grew animals using CeMM and standard laboratory conditions onboard STS-107, space shuttle Columbia. Tragically, the Columbia was destroyed while reentering the Earth's atmosphere. During the massive recovery effort, hardware that contained our experiment was found. Live animals were observed in four of the five recovered canisters, which had survived on both types of media. These data demonstrate that CeMM is capable of supporting C. elegans during spaceflight. They also demonstrate that animals can survive a relatively unprotected reentry into the Earth's atmosphere, which has implications with regard to the packaging of living material during space flight, planetary protection, and the interplanetary transfer of life.
We explain the excess of the antiproton fraction recently reported by the AMS-02 experiment by considering collisions between cosmic-ray protons accelerated by a local supernova remnant and the surrounding dense cloud. The same “pp collisions” provide the right ratio of daughter particles to fit the observed positron excess simultaneously in the natural model parameters. The supernova happened in relatively lower metallicity than the major cosmic-ray sources. The cutoff energy of electrons marks the supernova age of ∼105 years, while the antiproton excess may extend to higher energy. Both antiproton and positron fluxes are completely consistent with our predictions in an earlier paper.
The heart and its cellular components are profoundly altered by missions to space and injury on Earth. Further research, however, is needed to characterize and address the molecular substrates of such changes. For this reason, neonatal and adult human cardiovascular progenitor cells (CPCs) were cultured aboard the International Space Station. Upon return to Earth, we measured changes in the expression of microRNAs and of genes related to mechanotransduction, cardiogenesis, cell cycling, DNA repair, and paracrine signaling. We additionally assessed endothelial-like tube formation, cell cycling, and migratory capacity of CPCs. Changes in microRNA expression were predicted to target extracellular matrix interactions and Hippo signaling in both neonatal and adult CPCs. Genes related to mechanotransduction (YAP1, RHOA) were downregulated, while the expression of cytoskeletal genes (VIM, NES, DES, LMNB2, LMNA), non-canonical Wnt ligands (WNT5A, WNT9A), and Wnt/calcium signaling molecules (PLCG1, PRKCA) was significantly elevated in neonatal CPCs. Increased mesendodermal gene expression along with decreased expression of mesodermal derivative markers (TNNT2, VWF, and RUNX2), reduced readiness to form endothelial-like tubes, and elevated expression of Bmp and Tbx genes, were observed in neonatal CPCs. Both neonatal and adult CPCs exhibited increased expression of DNA repair genes and paracrine factors, which was supported by enhanced migration. While spaceflight affects cytoskeletal organization and migration in neonatal and adult CPCs, only neonatal CPCs experienced increased expression of early developmental markers and an enhanced proliferative potential. Efforts to recapitulate the effects of spaceflight on Earth by regulating processes described herein may be a promising avenue for cardiac repair.
Jatropha (Jatropha curcas) is a tropical perennial species identified as a potential biofuel crop. The oil is of excellent quality and it has been successfully tested as biodiesel and in jet fuel mixes. However, studies on breeding and genetic improvement of jatropha are limited. Space offers a unique environment for experiments aiming at the assessment of mutations and differential gene expression of crops and in vitro cultures of plants are convenient for studies of genetic variation as affected by microgravity. However, before microgravity studies can be successfully performed, pre-flight experiments are necessary to characterize plant material and validate flight hardware environmental conditions. Such preliminary studies set the ground for subsequent spaceflight experiments. The objectives of this study were to compare the in vitro growth of cultures from three explant sources (cotyledon, leaf, and stem sections) of three jatropha accessions (Brazil, India, and Tanzania) outside and inside the petriGAP, a modified group activation pack (GAP) flight hardware to fit petri dishes. In vitro jatropha cell cultures were established in petri dishes containing a modified MS medium and maintained in a plant growth chamber at 25 ± 2 °C in the dark. Parameters evaluated were surface area of the explant tissue (A), fresh weight (FW), and dry weight (DW) for a period of 12 weeks. Growth was observed for cultures from all accessions at week 12, including subsequent plantlet regeneration. For all accessions differences in A, FW and DW were observed for inside vs. outside the PetriGAPs. Growth parameters were affected by accession (genotype), explant type, and environment. The type of explant influenced the type of cell growth and subsequent plantlet regeneration capacity. However, overall cell growth showed no abnormalities. The present study demonstrated that jatropha in vitro cell cultures are suitable for growth inside PetriGAPs for a period of 12 weeks. The parameters evaluated in this study provide the basic ground work and pre-flight assessment needed to justify a model for microgravity studies with jatropha in vitro cell cultures. Future studies should focus on results of experiments performed with jatropha in vitro cultures in microgravity.
Charge Injection Devices (CIDs) have demonstrated direct contrast ratios in excess of 1:20 million from sub-optimal ground-based astronomical observations. CIDs are therefore interesting prospects for obtaining direct images from a host of high contrast ratio celestial scenes. However, while CIDs are capable of much deeper contrast ratios, potentially exceeding 1:1 billion, they do not address the Inner Working Angle (IWA) problem. If the Point-Spread Function (PSF) of a bright target is not well understood and accounted for, then the IWA will be large and nearby faint objects, like exoplanets, will be challenging to observe regardless of the detector used. As Earth's atmosphere is a major contributor to the variability of a PSF, high contrast ratio imaging with small IWAs will be best achieved in space. Therefore, if CIDs are to be used on future space-telescopes, they must be flight qualified in the space environment and shown to be at the appropriate Technology Readiness Level (TRL). Here we report the results of an 8 months CID technology demonstration mission that used the Nano-Racks External Platform mounted to the Kibo Exposed Facility on-board the International Space Station. Over the course of the 236 days mission we find no significant on-orbit changes of CID performance in terms of dark current, linearity, read noise, and photon transfer efficiency. As a result, CIDs are now space-qualified to TRL-8 and can be considered for future space telescopes.
We studied the growth of metal-ion silicate chemical gardens under Earth gravity (1 g) and microgravity (μg) conditions. Identical sets of reaction chambers from an automated system (the Silicate Garden Habitat or SGHab) were used in both cases. The μg experiment was performed on board the International Space Station (ISS) within a temperature-controlled setup that provided still and video images of the experiment downlinked to the ground. Calcium chloride, manganese chloride, cobalt chloride, and nickel sulfate were used as seed salts in sodium silicate solutions of several concentrations. The formation and growth of osmotic envelopes and microtubes was much slower under μg conditions. In 1 g, buoyancy forces caused tubes to grow upward, whereas a random orientation for tube growth was found under μg conditions.
Background Chronic alcohol consumption in adults can induce various cardiac toxicities such as arrhythmias, cardiomyopathy, and heart failure. Prenatal alcohol exposure can increase the risk of developing congenital heart defects among offspring. Understanding the molecular mechanisms underlying long-term alcohol exposure-induced cardiotoxicity can help guide the development of therapeutic strategies. Methods Cardiomyocytes derived from human-induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSC-CMs) were engineered into cardiac spheroids and treated with clinically relevant concentrations of ethanol (17 and 50 mM) for 5 weeks. The cells were then analyzed for changes in mitochondrial features, transcriptomic and metabolomic profiles, and integrated omics outcomes. Results Following chronic ethanol treatment of hiPSC-CMs, a decrease in mitochondrial membrane potential and respiration and changes in expression of mitochondrial function-related genes were observed. RNA-sequencing analysis revealed changes in various metabolic processes, heart development, response to hypoxia, and extracellular matrix-related activities. Metabolomic analysis revealed dysregulation of energy metabolism and increased metabolites associated with the upregulation of inflammation. Integrated omics analysis further identified functional subclusters and revealed potentially affected pathways associated with cardiac toxicities. Conclusion Chronic ethanol treatment of hiPSC-CMs resulted in overall decreased mitochondrial function, increased glycolysis, disrupted fatty acid oxidation, and impaired cardiac structural development.