Monthly Archives: October 2016

Downlink with NIH Director Highlights Research from DNA Sequencing to Heart Cells

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nih_kate_downlink

NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins spoke with NASA astronaut Kate Rubins about ISS Research during a downlink on October 19, 2016.

Dr. Francis Collins led the effort to map the human genome here on Earth, and he recently spoke with Kate Rubins, the first person to sequence DNA in space, as she floated aboard Earth’s only orbiting laboratory. Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health, connected with Rubins in a downlink that was live-streamed on the International Space Station’s Facebook page, and the pair of scientists discussed advances in microgravity research. Here are some of the highlights from their conversation, and a link to a video of the entire event below.

Rubins discussed the recent sequencing of DNA as part of the Biomolecule Sequencer investigation.

Collins pointed out that the MinION device Rubins used to sequence DNA in space is much smaller than similar tools used on Earth.

Rubins shared how DNA sequencing might be used in future deep-space mission.

Rubins also highlighted how the space station serves as a test bed for troubleshooting technologies needed to advance human space exploration.

Is it possible to get the flu in space? Rubins shared how crew members stay healthy aboard the space station.

Rubins and Collins also discussed the how the unique environment of the orbiting laboratory serves as the perfect place to study and develop countermeasures for deep-space exploration.

Rubins is a microbiologist with a vast background in virology and research, so it wasn’t surprising to learn that some of the personal items she brought were extra tools to help her conduct science in her spare time.

Rubins and Collins wrapped up their conversation with advice for young people who are interested in science and improving the world around them.

NIH has sponsored many investigations aboard the space station, including T-Cell Activation in Aging, OsteoOmics, Osteo-4, and a recently announced funding opportunity for Tissue Chips in Space.  Additionally, NIH has funded work on the Nell-1 molecule for rebuilding bone that will also be used in the RR-5 mission.

View the entire interview here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QYaYMo2XrAY[/embedyt]

 

Science in Short: Eli Lilly-Hard to Wet Surfaces

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Highlighted is an example of a significant gel interface that formed between the tablet and the solution which was not observed to the same extent on Earth. Credits: Eli Lilly

Highlighted is an example of a significant gel interface that formed between the tablet and the solution which was not observed to the same extent on Earth. Credits: Eli Lilly

A few weeks ago I talked about an innovative applied research experiment being done aboard the International Space Station for Eli Lilly. They are interested in the process by which tablets dissolve, since this can be a problem for helping patients get the dose of medicine they need. Because microgravity allows study of diffusion without buoyancy or density-driven convection, these processes can be slower, allowing for better visualization and mathematical modeling.

The PIs of this experiment have allowed us to share the early visual results from their ISS experiment. In the image above, you can see an example of a significant gel interface that formed between the tablet and the solution which was not observed to the same extent on Earth. The ground controls are pending, but based on preliminary results, the rate of dissolution was significantly longer in the microgravity experiment, an unexpected and interesting result.

In chemistry, wetting refers to spreading of a liquid over a solid material’s surface, and is a key aspect of the material’s ability to dissolve. This investigation studies how certain materials used in the pharmaceutical industry dissolve in water while in microgravity. Results from this investigation could help improve the design of tablets that dissolve in the body to deliver drugs, thereby improving drug design for medicines used in space and on Earth.

NASA’s International Space Station Chief Scientist Julie Robinson, Ph.D. (NASA)

NASA’s International Space Station Chief Scientist Julie Robinson, Ph.D. (NASA)