Cell Science-01 (Cell Science-01) - 03.24.16

Overview | Description | Applications | Operations | Results | Publications | Imagery

ISS Science for Everyone

Science Objectives for Everyone
Spaceflight is known to weaken muscle through tissue loss, which can affect how well the heart functions. The Cell Science-01 investigation studies how microgravity and the spaceflight environment affect adult and neonatal heart stem cells. These cells respond to changes in heart muscle structure and help make repairs, and results from this investigation contribute to scientists’ understanding of how they work, benefiting people in space and on Earth.
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.
Experiment Details

OpNom: Cell Science-01

Principal Investigator(s)
Mary Kearns-Jonker, Ph.D., Department of Pathology and Human Anatomy Loma Linda University School of Medicine, Loma Linda, CA, United States

Information Pending

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

Sponsoring Space Agency
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

Sponsoring Organization
National Laboratory (NL)

Research Benefits
Earth Benefits, Space Exploration, Scientific Discovery

ISS Expedition Duration 1

Expeditions Assigned
Information Pending

Previous ISS Missions

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Experiment Description

Research Overview

  • The goal of Cell Scence-01 investigation is to provide new insight into stem cell function and biology pertaining to cardiac tissue maintenance, repair, and function. Data derived from this investigation may provide new avenues for the use of stem cell therapies to combat heart disease, and could provide new insight into the design, and use, of stem cell therapies to repair cardiac tissue damage.
  • The Cell Science-01 investigation seeks to investigate the impact of the spaceflight environment on stem cell signaling, migration, proliferation, differentiation, and senescence, and to characterize those changes. Application of the spaceflight data to a comparative analysis with the ground control to identify differences in cellular and molecular processes to obtain new knowledge of stem cell function, and its role in cardiac biology and tissue regeneration. The investigation also seeks to identify the effect of the microgravity environment on stem cells that are responsible for responding to changes in cardiac structure known to occur during flight.
  • Cell Science-01 seeks to provide an increased knowledge and understanding of cardiac stem cell function, which is required for biomedical and commercial applications. Also, it is hoped that new knowledge can be obtained that can be applied to the investigation and design of new stem cell therapies to treat and eventually cure heart disease.

The International Space Station (ISS) is utilized to confirm that the spaceflight environment has a significant impact on stem cell signaling, migration, proliferation, differentiation, and senescence, shifting these parameters toward the adult cardiovascular stem cell phenotype. This allows the confirmation of the Cell Science-01 investigation’s hypothesis that that the spaceflight environment accelerates the aging process. Understanding the role of environmental conditions on stem cells that reside within the heart is relevant for patients on Earth who are candidates for treatment with cardiac stem cells, as well as crew members returning to Earth who may require cell-based treatment to repair lost heart muscle incurred during flight.


The overall scientific emphasis is to unravel the molecular basis for the enhanced regenerative capacity of neonatal cardiovascular stem cells. It is believed that this information could potentially transform the field of cardiovascular stem cell transplantation. A panel of over two hundred cardiovascular stem cell clones isolated from neonates through adults has been generated, and these valuable resources are used to reveal the genetic basis for key differences in function. Also, the existence of a previously unidentified population of human endogenous cardiovascular progenitors has been reported, that co-express both c-kit and isl-1. Epigenetic analysis performed by this research team identified 42 microRNAs whose expression was significantly altered with age in phenotypically identical neonatal and adult cardiovascular stem cell clones. These differences were correlated with reduced proliferation, and limited capacity, to invade in response to growth factor stimulation in the adult cardiovascular stem cells, despite the expression of high levels of growth factor receptor on these cells. Signature gene expression changes associated with senescence were induced in the adult cardiovascular stem cell clones. The molecular genetic profile distinguishing neonatal and adult cardiovascular stem cell clones provides a resource of information that can be utilized in the development of new ways to reverse the limited capacity of adult stem cells to efficiently repair the heart.


This CASIS-sponsored ISS spaceflight experiment studies the impact of spaceflight, and the microgravity environment, on the functional capacity of both neonatal and adult human cardiovascular stem cell clones. The information can help to advance stem cell-based therapies on Earth, by contributing to the understanding of the molecular basis for functional differences in the regenerative capacity of neonatal and adult cardiovascular stem cells. The information benefits the space program because it can help to clarify the effect of microgravity on stem cells that are responsible for responding to changes in cardiac structure known to occur during flight.

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Space Applications
Cardiac function and structure is known to be affected during exposure to the spaceflight environment. However, the biological basis for the changes is not clearly understood. This investigation benefits the space program through clarification of the effect of microgravity on cardiovascular stem cells that are responsible for responding to changes in cardiac structure known to occur during flight. This understanding can provide for the development of therapies to maintain the cardiac health of astronauts during long duration space exploration and treatments for reversing heart muscle loss due to prolonged microgravity exposure.

Earth Applications
Comparing changes in heart muscle stem cells flown in space with those cultured on the ground provides new insight into the factors that govern stem cell activity, including physical and molecular changes. This information benefits development of stem cell therapies to repair damaged cardiac tissue, which affects patients who suffer from heart attacks or cardiovascular disease, one of the world’s leading causes of death.

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Operational Requirements
Data is downlinked to the ground, and the experiment is commanded from the ground. Power is required for ascent, on-orbit, and descent. Cold stowage requirements are:

  • Ascent: +4°C stowage for media-filled bags
  • On-orbit: +4°C stowage for replacement media-filled bags
  • Descent: +4°C stowage for bioreactors with preserved specimen.

Experiment kits are stowed at ambient temperature. Microgravity Sciences Glovebox (MSG) is used with accessories for biology operations, thought it may be possible to use another glove box or glove bag if, and only if, the interior can be sterilized and fits the Cassette. Crew work requirements for manual operations:

  • Three to 5 activities: media bag change out. The number of media bag change outs is dependent on the experiment run duration.
  • One activity: at the end of the experiment, 8 of 10 Cassettes are opened and the hollow fiber bioreactors are cut out and stored in the Minus Eighty Laboratory Freezer for ISS (MELFI) at +4°C.
  • Gas Canister Assembly change out.

Video is taken of the media bag change out and the hollow fiber bioreactor removal activities.

Operational Protocols
For Gas Canister Assembly Change out, the crew removes the replacement assembly from ambient stowage. The spent canister assembly is removed from the Bioculture System, and the replacement canister assembly is installed into to the Bioculture System and connected. The spent canister assembly is placed into ambient stowage for return.


The crew transfers a Cassette into the MSG per the procedure instructions. A total of 10 Cassettes are processed. All Cassette access operations are conducted in the Microgravity Sciences Glovebox (MSG). The cover of 1 Cassette is removed, the flow path is accessed, the used media bag is removed, and then a fresh media bag is attached.


The crew transfers a Cassette into the MSG per the procedure instructions. A total of 8 Cassettes are processed. RNA stabilization reagent-filled hollow fiber bioreactors are removed, and then the bioreactors are transferred to MELFI and stored at +4°C. The spent Cassettes are closed up, and placed back into their respective positions in the Docking Station.


For return to Earth, the frozen hollow fiber bioreactors are placed into cold stowage at +4°C, and then transferred to the Dragon Spacecraft.


The powered Bioculture System with operating Cassettes is transferred from, and to, the ISS.

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Decadal Survey Recommendations

Information Pending

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Results/More Information

Information Pending

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Related Websites

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