Bioculture System (Bioculture System Facility) - 07.01.15

Summary | Overview | Operations | Results | Publications | Imagery

ISS Science for Everyone

Science Objectives for Everyone
The Bioculture System is space biological science incubator for use on the International Space Station (ISS), with the capability of transporting active and stored experiments to ISS. This incubator supports a wide diversity of tissue, cell, and microbiological cultures and experiment methods to meet any space flight research experiment goals and objectives.  The facility enables variable duration and long-duration cellular and microbiological experiments on ISS to meet the scientific needs of academic and biotechnology interests.
Science Results for Everyone
Information Pending

The following content was provided by Kevin Sato, Ph.D., Project Scientist, and is maintained in a database by the ISS Program Science Office.
Facility Details

OpNom: Bioculture System

Facility Manager(s)
Edward Austin, B.S., Ames Research Center, Mountain View, CA, United States

Facility Representative(s)
Kevin Sato, Ph.D., Project Scientist, NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA, United States

NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA, United States

Sponsoring Space Agency
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

Sponsoring Organization
National Laboratory (NL)

ISS Expedition Duration
March 2015 - Ongoing

Expeditions Assigned

Previous ISS Missions
The Bioculture System builds on the technological heritage of the Cell Culture Module (CCM). The CCM flew 21 missions on board the Shuttle. 

Information Pending

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Facility Description

Facility Overview
The Bioculture System fills a gap for a dedicated NASA incubation system to conduct cell and microbiology research on ISS. The facility expands the utilization of ISS by providing the Principal Investigator (PI) with the capability to conduct cell biology and microbiology experiments of any duration. In ground laboratories, scientists maintain long and short duration cultures by subculturing cells, taking interim samples for analysis, and changing out the growth medium in the specimen container.  The Bioculture System provides analogous automated and manually-operated capabilities to allow scientists this similar flexibility for conducting research on ISS.  The Bioculture System enables a PI to use nearly any cell culture and microbiology system of interest, which allows a wide diversity cell biology, microbiology, discovery biology, and drug-testing studies to be conducted on ISS. Subcomponents of the Bioculture System interface with existing ISS specimen processing and analytical devices.

The Bioculture System supports both academic and biotechnology/pharmaceutical company goals and objectives for utilizing the unique space flight environment provided by ISS. The System supports cell biology studies  such as the following:
• basic cell physiology
• genetics and gene expression
• cell cycle
• cell differentiation
• 3D cell culture
• tissue biology
• host-pathogen (bacteria and virus) interaction
• immune cell function
• latent virus activation
• cancer-related, radiation, biotech/ commercial pharmaceutical discovery biology, drug discovery, and drug compound and countermeasure analyses and testing. 

Microbiology studies supported in the following:
• basic microbe physiology and molecular analyses
• microbial virulence
• long duration growth for genetics
• drug therapeutic countermeasure analyses
• biofilm research

The flexibility of the biochamber system and potential ability to use existing or PI-designed biochambers allows a great deal of freedom for the types of cell and microbiology research that can be performed.  A potential additional use of the Bioculture System would be in conjunction with animal-based research on ISS.  Such a coupling of the two research systems allows scientists to take samples from the flown animals on ISS and then immediately transfer the sample to the Bioculture System. The entire study would be accomplished in microgravity.  This type of analysis is a first, and eliminates potential complications from 1-g effects to returned live animals prior to specimen sampling.

The Bioculture System provides ten independent incubation Cassettes, which share only the gas supply.  Each Cassette also carries a cold chamber for heat-labile solutions. Cell cultures are maintained in a fluid flow path that provides medium-circulation, gassing, introduction of new medium and removal of used medium, and automated sampling and solution injection. 

The fluid-flow path-sampling and injection designs are customizable to meet science experiment requirements.  Also, the programming for fluid flow rate, mode of pump action, volume of sample collected, volume of solution injected, and automated event timelines can be customized to the experiment requirements.  The Bioculture System is compatible with the most commonly used fixative and preservatives for space flight experiments.   Furthermore, the fluid flow path is accessible by the Crew to allow for further experiment flexibility and resupply. 

Two important capabilities include initiation of cultures on-orbit (automated or manual) and manual subculturing of experiments.  The Bioculture System supports any number of biochamber types, and it is compatible with biochambers that use porous hollow fiber technology as the conduit for medium perfusion.  Medium passes through the hollow fiber and then diffuses through the pores.  The diffusion rate is enough to feed the cultures but not enough to expose the culture fluid flow forces, which could negatively impact microgravity effects. 

Operationally, the Bioculture System carries active experiments to ISS, is transferred to ISS, and then returns.  Alternatively, the Bioculture System Docking Station may remain on ISS, with unpowered Cassettes, carrying fluid-primed flow paths, being delivered to ISS.  The specimens and solution-filled bags are transported to ISS in an appropriate passive or active stowage container.  For this scenario, the Crew attaches the solution-filled bags to the flow path tubing, and the specimens will be injected into the biochamber on-orbit.


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Facility Operations
• Conduct variable duration and long duration experiments up to 60 days using nominal supplies; longer duration experiments are possible but will require resupply of consumables

• Incubation of biological samples
• Cold chamber for containing heat labile media, additive solutions, preservatives and fixative solutions, and samples
• Media circulation for perfused feeding of the cultures; amenable to use with hollow fiber media delivery systems to protect cells from media flow forces
• Programmable automated specimen sampling from the biochamber
• Programmable automated solution injection
• Biochamber and bags accessible by the crew for on-orbit initiation of cultures, subculturing, sampling and injections, and removal/change-out of bags and biochamber
• Near-real time data downlink
• Change pre-programmed set points or automated activity timelines, per Cassette, by commanding from the ground
• Resupply Cassette consumable supplies, including the Gas Supply Assembly
• Crew operations can be performed in the Microgravity Glovebox or ISS Disposable Glovebag

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Results/More Information

Information Pending

Results Publications

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Ground Based Results Publications

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ISS Patents

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Related Publications

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Related Websites

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Bioculture System with 10 independent cassettes – courtesy of Tissue Genesis, Inc.

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Cassette Durable Assembly 1 – courtesy of Tissue Genesis, Inc.

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 Cassette Durable Assembly 2 – courtesy of Tissue Genesis, Inc.

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Top view of enclosed cassette – courtesy of Tissue Genesis, Inc.

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