Morehead State University’s Craft Academy for Excellence in Science and Mathematics, a residential high school, is partnering with MSU’s Department Biology and Chemistry and SpaceTango to launch a cell culturing biology experiment to space.
The experiment, to be conducted aboard the International Space Station, is scheduled to launch this Saturday, Feb. 18, at 10:01 a.m. as part of the SpaceX CRS-10 crew resupply mission. This also will be the first to launch from the newly renovated, historic Launch Complex 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
This experiment will allow Dr. Michael E. Fultz, associate professor of biology, and Craft Academy seniors Will Casto of Russell and Danielle Gibson of Germantown to examine the behavior of smooth muscle cells as they acclimate to a microgravity environment.
Their experiment also will provide information regarding cytoskeleton remodeling and contraction in microgravity. The few studies that have examined the effect of microgravity on smooth muscle indicate the dependance of gravity to maintain; however, all of the studies have been performed in simulated microgravity.
The implications of such research, other than providing a better understanding of cellular processes, also holds a potential medical benefit. Smooth muscle lines arteries and has a significant impact on blood pressure, including conditions like hypertension. By learning how the contractile process works in these cells, the doors open to learning how to further manipulate them, which could lead to better preventative treatments.
SpaceTango, a research and engineering company dedicated to research in microgravity, has designed and built a small laboratory environment, known as a CubeLab, to conduct the experiment. MSU researchers and SpaceTango engineers have worked closely during the past 10 months to ensure the lab environment meets the specifications of the experiment.
Last year, SpaceTango placed a platform that allows multiple CubeLab experiments to be run automatically and simultaneously on the International Space Station. The Craft Academy student researchers will be able to access a live video feed of the cell contraction and near real time data from their experiment.
“This exomedicine experiment conducted aboard the ISS means a great deal to the Craft Academy. High quality student experiences at Morehead State University and the community is our number one goal, and this experiment represents one of many outstanding opportunities to which our students have access,” said Jennifer Carter, Craft Academy assistant director of academic services.
Carter, Dr. Fultz, Casto and Gibson will be in Orlando for final integration and launch.
Additional information is available from the Craft Academy for Excellence in Science and Mathematics at 606-783-2093 and from the Department Biology and Chemistry at 606-783-2945.