The experiment Endothelial Cells studies the effects of microgravity and cosmic radiation on human microvascular endothelial cells (HMEC-1) in terms of genomic expression and cell cycle variations. The endothelium is a thin layer of cells that line the interior surface of blood and lymphatic vessels. The goal of this experiment is to study cardiovascular and muscle–skeletal problems caused by the injury of endothelium. This experiment will be performed in KUBIK during the 10 days Short Duration Mission starting on September 1st 2015.
EPO Cristoforetti is the Educational program that was performed by the ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti during her mission between November and May 2015. The target audience is children and young adults. Various scientific concepts, aspects of human space flight and the Italian experiment on ISS (Nanoparticles and Osteoporosis / Cell Shape and Expression) were discussed in a video recording and simple demonstrations were performed. An example: Barycentric balls in space.
TripleLux (Part A and B)
The TripleLux experiments investigate the effect of weightlessness on the immune system. It is well known that the immune system of astronauts is impaired after spending some time in space. The focus of the experiments is understanding of cellular mechanisms that define the immune response. The experiments use rat cells (Part A) and mussel cells (Part B) stored in small containers, which are flown to the International Space Station and then inserted into the Biolab facility. After a certain time of exposure to the weightless conditions, the immune response is measured by adding yeast particles. These particles are absorbed and digested by the cells in the same manner as it happens in the human body when our immune cells fight pathogens. The digestion of the particles is coupled to a chemical reaction that produces light. This reaction allows us to measure the intensity of the immune response. This data is received on ground and analyzed by the science teams at the ETH Zürich (Part A) and the Technical University of Berlin (Part B).
BIOTESC is responsible for the planning of the experiment on the ISS. This includes the organization of test runs on ground and the preparation of procedures that provide working instructions for the crew. During experiment execution, BIOTESC supports the astronauts from the control room in Hergiswil.
TripleLux Part A was flown to the ISS with the SpaceX-6 spacecraft in April 2015 and the experiment was executed in April/May 2015.
TripleLux Part B was uploaded with SpaceX-5 spacecraft in January 2015 and the experiment was executed in March 2015.
T-Cell Act in Aging
T-Cell Act in Aging is a biological experiment that makes use of the KUBIK facility on the ISS. The goal is to investigate the effects of gravity on the activation of the immune system. The Science Team from the US aims to compare the immunosuppression observed in space to immunosuppression that is commonly found in elderly people.
The experiment uses human T cells, obtained as the by-products of blood donations. The cells are mixed with nutrient solution and injected into the hardware, which is then flown to the ISS and incubated in KUBIK at 37°C.
After a certain time period, the astronaut manually adds the activator, which acts as an antigen. It activates the dormant T cells and starts an intracellular reaction. At a later point in time, the cells are fixed with a fixative solution. After experiment execution, the experiment containers are transported back to Earth and handed over to the scientists for analysis.
As with TripleLux described above, BIOTESC is responsible for the planning of the experiment on the ISS, for the preparation of crew procedures, the organization of ground tests, the coordination with the Flight Control Team in Munich and the live support of the crew during the execution of the experiment.
The first run of the experiment was successfully performed in April 2014 during the SpaceX-3 mission. The second run with a different protocol was performed in January 2015 during the SpaceX-5 mission.
Stem Cell Differentiation
Stem cells play a major role in the maintenance of bone mass. They are the main source of osteoblasts during bone remodeling and repair. The availability of mesenchymal stem cells and their proper growth, differentiation, and chemotaxis are all prerequisites for osteoblast formation. The aim of this experiment is to determine how prolonged exposure to microgravity influences these processes. For this, human mesenchymal stem cells are seeded into special flight hardware, which is flown to the ISS. The hardware is placed into the KUBIK incubator and incubated at 37°C in normal or in differentiation-inducing media for 2 weeks. Then the cells are fixed so that they can be analysed by the scientists after the return to Earth. As in other experiments, BIOTESC is responsible for planning and testing the experiment on Earth, for the preparation of crew procedures and live support of the crew during the execution of the experiment.
12 samples were flown to the ISS with the Soyuz 42 and the incubation was done in April 2015.
Nanoparticles and Osteoporosis / Cell Shape and Expression
These two experiments are under the overall responsibility of the Italian Space Agency (Italian: Agenzia Spaziale Italiana; ASI).
The decrease of bone mass and density is one of the most critical diseases suffered by astronauts. Microgravity changes the metabolic environment of bone and results in a loss of homeostasis in the skeleton. In long duration space flights, this leads to a loss of bone mineral density, a condition called osteoporosis.
As the name suggests, “Nanoparticles and Osteoporosis” aims to understand the pathology and the underlying mechanisms of osteoporosis. This is important for the development of new strategies for preventing or reducing disuse osteoporosis.
“Cell Shape and Expression” is an experiment designed to promote the understanding of cytoskeleton changes in microgravity. On Earth, it is well known that modification of the cytoskeleton can be related to a pathological state of the cell. Cells exposed to microgravity display architectural and cytoskeleton changes, which ultimately results in impairment of the biological function and physiological failure.
Both experiments were performed simultaneously in KUBIK, in spring 2015. BIOTESC was responsible for all operations that involved KUBIK, including the KUBIK setup, installation and de-installation of the experiment containers, copying the data and the stowage of KUBIK after the completion of the experiment.
Experiments using the Random Positioning Machine have shown that endothelial cells cultured in simulated microgravity build 3-dimensional aggregates (spheres). The experiment SPHEROIDS will show the effects of real microgravity on endothelial cells and also examine the impacts of selected signaling molecules on changes in endothelial cells caused by microgravity. 2 sets of cells will be incubated in KUBIK for 7 and 14 days respectively in spring 2016. Afterwards the cells will return to the scientist´s labs in Germany, Denmark and USA to be analyzed.
EPO Peake is the Educational program of the ESA astronaut Timothy Peake for his Principia mission, to be launched at the end of November 2015. The Classroom Videos Demonstration consists of five activities that will exhibit the laws of mechanics, describing the motions and interactions of physical entities on orbit. The Seeds in Space activity combines horticulture and biology with space education. Sets of seeds will be distributed to schools; half of each set will be flown to the ISS and the other half will remain on Earth. The students can evaluate the differences in growth behavior of the seeds that were on orbit and seeds that remained on ground. The Astro Pi activity involves a low-cost, credit card-sized but powerful computer called the Raspberry Pi. For this activity, the UK Space Agency and the Raspberry Pi Foundation will be spearheading a student competition that challenges students to write computer programs tackling the software/hardware challenges of sustaining the technological diverse needs of the space industry - e.g. survival in the space environment, measurement and calibration, hardware reconfiguration, image processing, etc. The winning computer codes will be implemented on the Astro Pi on-board the ISS.
EPO Gerst (2014)
Scientific demonstrations on orbit for children and young adults: Aktion 42, Earth Guardian, Flying Classroom
experiments carried out under the responsibility of BIOTESC