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French experiments to fly on US space shuttle mission STS 107

Press Release From: Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales (CNES)
Posted: Wednesday, January 15, 2003

Four French experiments are set to fly on the US space shuttle Columbia, scheduled for launch tomorrow 16 January from Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, Florida, on a 16-day science mission.

The STS 107 crew will be using 31 scientific and commercial payloads to perform more than 80 experiments in biology, biomedical research and countermeasures, material sciences and Earth sciences. The French science experiments on board the shuttle will be performed on ESA and NASA payloads:

- Professor Alexandre and Dr Vico from the LBTO bone tissue biology laboratory in St Etienne will conduct an experiment into the behaviour of bone cells using ESAís Biobox incubator. Their aim is to study human cells to understand the processes underlying the formation and metabolism of contact points between bone cells (osteoblasts) and the cell culture. Contact points interact with the cytoskeleton that is responsible for cell morphology and controls the cellís metabolic activity via mechanical signal transduction.

- Dr Richard Giege from the University of Strasbourg is taking part in one of eight experiments in ESAís Advanced Protein Crystallisation Facility (APCF), dedicated to studying protein growth in microgravity to obtain high-quality crystals. The experiment devised by Dr Giege and his team will conduct crystallization tests on two proteins they have already studied on the ground: thaumatin from Thaumatococcus daniellii and aspartyl-tRNA synthetase from Thermus thermophilus.

- Using the Canadian OSTEO instrument, ERISTO (European Research In Space and Terrestrial Osteoporosis) proposes to study the response of bone cells to their environment. The aim of this project is to validate in-vitro cell models of bone ossification. Bone cells will be grown in a traditional culture (type 1 collagen) or one very similar to the bone matrix (calcium phosphate), synthesized by a Canadian laboratory. Comparing results obtained with these two cell cultures against observations of animals on previous missions will provide vital new insights into how a cellís immediate environment affects its behaviour. Validation of the standard system (synthetic culture/bone cells) during the experiment will open up interesting avenues for scientists to use this in-vitro model to research ossification and osteoporosis. The LBTO and the MEDES space medicine and physiology institute in Toulouse are also taking part in the project.

- Dr Jacqueline Gabrion from the Paris Neurosciences Institute will study how microgravity affects the process of cerebro-spinal fluid (CSF) formation using the FRESH-02 instrument (Fundamental Rodent Experiments Supporting Health). The science team will look in particular at the metabolism and functioning of the choroid plexus, a thin membrane between the walls of the cerebral ventricles that controls CSF metabolism.

This experiment was selected by the International Space Life Sciences Working Group (ILSWG), which includes members from most of the partner space agencies working on the International Space Station.

For more information contact:

CNES Press Relations Office - Julien Guillaume Ė Phone +33 (0)1 44 76 76 83 or go to www.cnes.fr

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