Cell Biology Facilities

The ESA Biopack facility, which flew during NASA-Mir and Spacelab missions, was primarily designed to carry out automated biology and biotechnology experiments. Biopack included an incubator with three centrifuges (300 mm diameter; 0.001 g to 2 g), a cooler, and a freezer. Occupying about the volume of two Space Shuttle middeclc lockers, the Biopack was designed to accommodate small biological samples, e.g., mammalian cell and tissue cultures, small plants or insects. This device was later reconfigured as a portable incubator, named Kubik, for flying on the Soyuz "Taxi" missions to the ISS (Figure 3-10).

Biolab is a facility that will be on board the European Columbus Orbital Facility (see Figure 4-02). This double rack is designed for continuation of space research on cell cultures, unicellular organisms, plants and small animals, as earlier flown on ESA's Biorack on board Spacelab, now with larger specimens and longer duration. In contrast to earlier incubators like Biorack or Biobox, which were only temperature-controlled, Biolab provides a fully controlled life support system for biological specimens. Biolab's major capability includes cell culture, stowage, automated sample processing, and imaging. It also hosts two 1-g control centrifuges (600 mm diameter; 0.001 g to 2 g), six experiment containers, with several container designs for accommodating a large variety of specific experiments. Research objectives include studies of regulatory mechanisms of proliferation and differentiation, the role of the cytoskeleton, mechanical loading, graviperception and thresholds, mechanisms underlying radiation damage, and repair mechanisms in cells and tissues.

The Biotechnology Mammalian Tissue Culture Facility (BMTC) is a new facility for tissue engineering being considered by ESA for research on cell and tissue culture on board the ISS. The core of the system will provide robust control of concentration gradients and of mechanical forces thanks to the integration of fluid distribution tools, microsensors, and microactuators.

The Cell Biology Experiment Facility (CBEF) will provide a controlled environment for fundamental life science research in space using cells, tissues, small animals, plants, or microorganisms. The CBEF will be equipped with a centrifuge providing variable gravity for reference experiments at g levels from 0.1 to 2 g. This is a JAXA Space Station Facility that will be located in the Japanese Experiment Module Kibo.

The NASA Cell Culture Unit (CCU) will be used to support basic research in cell and tissue biology on board the ISS. The CCU will have the capability to grow and maintain animal, microbial, and plant suspension cultures, attachment cultures, tissues less than 4 mm in length, and non-feeding aquatic specimens. The CCU allows automated sampling and video microscopy. It can also be mounted on the 2.5-m diameter centrifuge in the Centrifuge Accommodation Module (see Section 3.4.1 of this Chapter).

The Space Station Incubator can house specimens for up to 135 days on orbit or can be used for short-term events such as heat shock. The temperature can be adjusted at any time during the 135-day increment.

The NASA Biotechnology Research Facility (BRF) is the primary scientific facility for conducting mammalian cell culture, tissue engineering, biochemical separations and protein crystal growth on ISS (Figure 3-11). The BRF consists of one rack that provides support services for a variety of sub-rack payload experiments developed by investigators. Facility services include power, thermal management, video signal switching and processing, distribution of research quality gases and bulk 37° C incubation. The BRF will provide a centralized command and data-handling interface to the Space Station, as well as some data and video storage.

Figure 3-11. Astronauts participating in a biotechnology experiment on water treatment system during the STS-111 Shuttle mission. Photo courtesy of NASA.

Future projects for cell biology research in space seek beyond the basic culture capabilities. Scientists and engineers are searching for ways to mix solutions and add these solutions to the cell cultures, image cells with microscope, and measure cell responses to microgravity as they grow. Of great interest would be to count cells (with cytometer and fluorescently activated cell sorter) or measure gene expression.

Pertinent to the field of Radiation Biology, the Matroshka human phantom body is composed of various tissue substitutes simulating the human body in terms of size, shape, orientation, mass density, and nuclear interactions. At the sites of the body organs of interest, spaces are provided at the surface and at different depths within the phantom to accommodate dosimeter packages to measure any ionization levels. Matroshka is affixed to the exterior of the ISS (see Figure 7-01). Dosimeters are either active (e.g., solid-state nuclear track detectors, radiation-sensitive crystals, polymers) and are returned periodically to the ground, or active (e.g., silicon detectors) and connected to a computer for online sensor data processing.

0 0

Post a comment