Video about this project here: vimeo.com/syntropystudio/review/241053285/f9d7eb8f68
STaARS launched their latest set of experiments called BioScience 5 to the ISS on OA8. These experiments will be conducted within the new NEXUS Lab, designed and built by SpacePharma. The NEXUS lab is a miniaturized cell culture lab that supports four fully automated cell culture experiments. Individual culture chambers have the ability to mix media and different test fluids across living cells to help study changes in growth due to microgravity. Special features of the Nexus Lab include a built-in mass spectrometer and microscopy providing the researchers access to onboard analytics and near real-time results. The NEXUS lab will operate within the new STaARS-1 Experiment facility. The StaARS-1 EF will supply power to the NEXUS lab and provide a temperature controlled environment for the cell culture experiments inside.
The NEXUS lab will host will four experiments including two by NASA scientist Dr. Sara Wallace. Dr. Wallace will be culturing completing a two-part experiment that began on SpaceX-12 involving Staphylococcus aureus. Her experiment examines the molecular alterations induced by microgravity that cause S. aureus to change color from its normal gold to clear and cause the bacteria to lose pathogenicity. On SpaceX-12, Dr. Wallace sent S. aureus to the ISS to determine molecular changes associated with adaptation to microgravity. On OA-8, she will use the Nexus Lab to understand S. aureus growth rates, a crucial measure that will help determine how this pathogen lives in space. By understanding the mechanisms within S. aureus that change during growth in microgravity, this research has the potential to lead to drug discovery and new therapies to help decrease the risk from this common skin pathogen.
Organisms respond to environmental changes by altering their metabolic processes in an effort to regulate internal biochemical conditions. Arguably the only common environmental condition for all life past and present on Earth has been the effect of gravity. The best way to understand the biological response when this stress is removed is to examine genetic and metabolic alterations. To help elucate these changes induced by microgravity, , STaARS in August of 2017 worked with two researchers, Drs. Brandi Reese and Heath Mills to launch a 73million year old Penicillium chrysogenum on SpaceX 12 to grow inside the International Space Station.
Dr. Brandi Reese (Texas A&M Corpus Christi) and Dr. Heath Mills, through support from the International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP) isolated and characterized a novel Penicillium chrysogenum-like fungi from the deep subsurface in the South Pacific Gyre. On August 14th, 2017 the fungi was launched to the ISS, grown in the STaARS-1 Experiment Facility and preserved at different time points. These samples were then returned to Dr. Reese at TAMU-CC where transcriptome (RNA) and metabolome (metabolite) analysis is currently on going. Results from these analyses when compared to ground controls will provide detailed insight into the genetic and metabolic response to microgravity.
In addition, the production and effectiveness of a novel antibiotic produced from this fungus is being characterized following the exposure to microgravity. This fungi is closely related genetically to an industrially important fungus that is currently used to produce penicillin. While this fungi does demonstrate antimicrobial activity, the commonly detected genes associated with penicillin have not been detected. Alterations to production or effectiveness of this novel antibiotic will be characterized.
STaARS is grateful to the generous funding provide by CASIS for this project and the support provided by NASA and SpaceX.