Status Report

ISS Expedition Three Science Operations Weekly Science Status Report Wednesday, September 5, 2001

By SpaceRef Editor
September 5, 2001
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The first cell culture experiments aboard the International Space Station
have been successfully completed, and the crew is preparing for the
first in-depth study of lung function in space.

Expedition Three Commander Frank Culbertson preserved colon, kidney,
neuroendocrine and ovarian cell cultures, which will be returned to
Earth on the Space Shuttle in December. Investigators are studying both
normal and cancerous cells, which may grow in low gravity more like
they grow in the human body.

“We were pleased with Culbertson’s dedication to the experiment and
that he executed on-orbit operations to complete the experiment so precisely,”
said Dr. Neal Pellis, the program manager for this cellular biotechnology
experiment at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. “This crew’s
attention to intricate, hands-on experiment operations greatly enhances
our ability to get useful science results.”

While completing the first cell culture experiment on the Station,
Culbertson worked closely with the team at the Payload Operations Center
at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.

On Tuesday, Sept. 4., Culbertson removed the remaining cultures from
the Biotechnology Specimen Temperature Controller. Since cell
growth began on Aug. 22, the incubator kept the cells at a constant
temperature required for cell growth. During three separate sessions,
Culbertson removed cells from the incubator, preserved them and placed
them in the Biotechnology Refrigerator.

Before preserving the cultures, Culbertson used a Portable Clinical
Blood Analyzer – similar to those doctors use in hospitals to check
blood samples — to check the health of the cells and growth media.
Then, he used syringes to inject a chemical preservative or fixative
in the cell cultures. Once all the cell cultures were removed, the incubator
was powered off on Tuesday.

All 24 cell cultures grown on Expedition Three are now stored in the
Biotechnology Refrigerator.

“The important on-orbit procedures have been completed,” said Pellis.
“Now our job is to see that the cells get to the investigators for analysis.”

In early December, the Shuttle will return the Expedition Three cultures
to scientists on Earth and bring more cultures to the Station for another
set of experiments that will be performed during Expedition Four. During
the next expedition, kidney cells will be cultured again, and leukemia
cells will be cultured on the Station for the first time.

For Expedition Three, four separate investigations are being carried
out as part of the Cellular Biotechnology Operations Support System,
or CBOSS. On Earth, most cells grown in cultures form flat, thin
specimens that do not allow scientists to examine how the cells work

The CBOSS culture system is an interim platform for cell-based research
aboard the Space Station that will be used until the permanent Biotechnology
Facility is delivered to the Station. This experiment is managed by
NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, and is part of the Microgravity
Research Program at the Marshall Center.

As the cell experiments were finished, the crew started preparations
for the first long-term study of human lung function in space. On Wednesday,
Sept. 5, they did a routine check out of the Gas Analyzer System for
Metabolic Analysis Physiology (GASMAP). This is located in the Human
Research Facility and will be used for the Effects of EVA and Long-Term
Exposure to Microgravity on Pulmonary Function (PuFF).

The crew will breathe into the GASMAP for a series of five lung function
tests that measure the exchange of gas in the lungs and detect changes
in respiratory muscle strength. The experiment also studies how Extravehicular
Activities or spacewalks affect lung function.

A better understanding of the effects of gravity – or lack of gravity
– on human lungs may also benefit clinical medicine on Earth. Gravity
influences the way the lungs operate and may even exaggerate some lung
disorders, such as emphysema and tuberculosis. The principal investigator
for this research is Dr. John West of the University of California in
San Diego.

Last week, the crew members also completed the first activities for
the Renal Stone investigation that studies a possible countermeasure
for preventing kidney stone formation. They completed diet logs and
collected urine samples. Previous data have indicated that exposure
to microgravity may increase the risk of kidney stone development during
and immediately after space flight. During Expedition Three, the crew
is testing potassium citrate as a possible therapy for minimizing renal
stone development.

Many experiments also continue to study physical systems, such as
fluid and crystal samples. In the past week, the Experiment on Physics
of Colloids in Space conducted three 12-hour runs. Two of these runs
were used to calibrate the laser that provides data on the colloid samples.
A colloid is a system of particles suspended in a fluid. Common examples
are paint, milk and ink.

During the third experiment run, the first rheology measurements on
sample 8, the colloidal glass sample, were made. A rheology measurement
is accomplished by lightly oscillating a crystallized sample within
its sample cell, while performing laser light scattering to examine
the vibratory response of the crystal. This determines the shear modulus
of the crystal, providing more information about the nature of colloidal
crystals being grown on the Station.

This marked the last run of the initial colloid investigations. Upcoming
runs will focus on rehomogenizing the AB6 and AB13 binary samples and
beginning much more detailed measurements on them.

Commands are sent to the colloids experiment from NASA’s Glenn Research
Center’s Telescience Support Center in Cleveland, Ohio. Microgravity
research may yield insights that could lead to engineering new colloid
products on Earth.

A group of scientists at the University of Alabama in Birmingham are
sending commands to the Dynamically Controlled Protein Crystal Growth
experiment to control the crystallization rate of biological samples,
which are now forming crystals. This experiment is the first experiment
to allow scientists to control the growth rate of the biological crystals.
Using nitrogen gas, the scientists can adjust the evaporation rate of
the solution surrounding the forming crystals. Analysis of crystals
grown in space may provide insights into numerous biological processes
on Earth, with applications ranging from medicine to agriculture.

On Tuesday, the crew also installed the shaker device on EXPRESS Rack
2 for the Active Rack Isolation System ISS Characterization Experiment
. This Thursday, engineers will collect measurements with
the “shaker” device to further define the system’s ability to protect
delicate microgravity experiments from specific higher frequency vibrations.
ARIS-ICE will measure the rack’s ability to prevent the shaking motion
from disturbing experiments housed in the rack.

Test runs for this experiment are primarily commanded from the ground
by investigators working at two telescience centers located in Houston,
Texas, and Seattle, Washington. ARIS activities are coordinated with
the Payload Rack Officers or PROs, who work in the Payload Operations
Center at Marshall.

SpaceRef staff editor.