Bioculture System Validation (Bioculture System Validation) - 02.05.14

Overview | Description | Applications | Operations | Results | Publications | Imagery
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Bioculture System Validation verifies the performance of the Bioculture System Facility in the space flight environment on the International Space Station (ISS). Specifically, automated capabilities and selected critical crew manual operations of the Bioculture System are functionally characterized and evaluated to validate the performance of the hardware to maintain a cell culture and meet the hardware systems requirements.

Science Results for Everyone
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Experiment Details


Principal Investigator(s)
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Sponsoring Space Agency
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

Sponsoring Organization
Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate (HEOMD)

Research Benefits
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ISS Expedition Duration
September 2014 - March 2015

Expeditions Assigned

Previous ISS Missions
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Experiment Description

Research Overview

  • Expand the utilization of ISS with a space biosciences research facility that provides the scientific community with the freedom to conduct cell biology and microbiology experiments of any duration, especially for a long duration 

  • Provide Crew access to the specimens to conduct manual procedures to start cultures on-orbit, propagate cells, and sample and process specimens in a manner that is similar to how scientist perform experiments in their own laboratory

  • Enable scientists with a facility that provides the ability with perfused feeding of the cells while protecting the cells from fluid shear that can negate microgravity effects

  • Provide a facility that can culture all types of cells, tissue cultures, 3-D cultures, microbes (eukaryotic and prokaryotic) with a further capability to automatic solution injection and sampling

  • Validation of engineering performance of the Bioculture System to maintain a cell culture on ISS

  • Validation of manual operation capabilities to expand the types of on-orbit experiments that can be conducted

  • Enables scientist with the capability to design and conduct experiments that will be similar to how experiments are conducted in their laboratories

  • Provision of an biological incubator system that provides a stable environment that will allow long duration experiments on ISS that will not disturb the microgravity conditions and requirements of the study

  • Ability to initiate cell culture experiments on-orbit to eliminate gravity and launch effects on specimens that are actively being cultured during launch

  • Platform will provide utilization from pharmaceutical and biotech companies for drug discovery and validation

  • Platform for US National and international scientists to conduct studies on-orbit cell system that will complement similar studies with animals

  • Long duration studies to investigate and discover microgravity and space flight environment effects that temporary and permanent

  • Allow scientists to take samples from the space-flight animals on ISS and then immediately transfer the sample to the Bioculture System

  • Enable a cell culturing facility to address medically relevant research that require the microgravity environment to investigate biological questions and hypotheses


Scientific research will not be conducted for the Bioculture System Validation.

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Space Applications

The Bioculture System will provide a unique cell and microbiology incubation system that will allow short and long duration studies in the space flight environment.  Thus, for the first time, scientists will be able to conduct cell culture experiments using similar procedures that they use for ground research studies, such as media re-feeds, cell subculture, initiation of cultures in the appropriate environment, and stowage of specimens at required time points.  The key to implementing these capabilities is the cartridge system.  The cartridge will allow the Crew to access the biochambers, media bags, and sampling bags. The ability of the cartridge to support good laboratory practices, similar to the ground requirements for sterility, and allow change out of subcomponents will give the scientific community flexibility that has not been possible for previous space flight cell culture experiments. Of particular importance is the enabling ability to conduct long duration experiments.  These types of experiments are important for understanding how biology adapts to life in space and to discover permanent versus temporary effects of this environment on biological processes and structures.

Earth Applications

The Bioculture System will enable scientists to conduct experiments that require a microgravity environment to address questions and hypotheses that can’t be investigated in the presence of 1xg.  Furthermore, many biomedically relevant discoveries were made from biological experiments that were conducted for a short duration on the Space Shuttle.  The Bioculture System will enable repeating these studies and conducting long duration experiments based on these findings to identify molecular and biochemical processes that may be critical for understanding disease and infection states and processes.

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Operational Requirements

  • Data downlink
  • Ground Commanding
  • Power required for ascent, on-orbit, and descent
  • Cold stowage
    • Ascent: +4C and -80C or lower
    • On-orbit: +4C and -80C or lower
    • Descent: +4C and -80C or lower
  • Ambient stowage
  • MSG with accessories for biology use; may be able to use another glove box or glove bag if and only if the interior can be sterilized and fits the Cassette
  • MERLIN or other incubator for warming the temp block for thawing cells.
  • Crew for manual operations
  • Video of the flow path change out and culture injection
  • Double cold bag with frozen bricks may be needed for the procedure to start a culture on  orbit to keep the cells frozen until thaw.

Operational Protocols

Gas Canister Assembly Change out: Crew removes the replacement assembly from ambient stowage. The spent canister assembly is removed from the Bioculture System and then the replacement canister assembly is slid into and connected to the Bioculture System.  The spent canister assembly is placed into ambient stow for return

Flow Path Change out and initiation of culture.  Four of the Cassettes will be used to run this operation.  The Crew sets up the MSG and a video camera to record the activity. Crew removes temp block and warms it in a +37C incubator. Crew removes the four Cassettes and transfers to the MSG.  The media bag, bioreactor, and sample bags are removed from the flow path and then each is stored at the appropriate temperature in MELFI.  Crew removes the replacement flow paths from stowage and then inserts them into the Cassette.  If needed, the Crew sets up a Double Cold Bag with frozen bricks and then places the cryo-vials into it.   The cryo-vials are thawed in the +37C incubator using the temp block.  Currently, only one cryo-vial is thawed at a time and then immediately injected into the biochamber of the replacement flow path.  The covers are put back onto the Cassette (inspected for proper compression of the o-ring) and then the Cassette is re-installed into the Bioculture System docking station.  This is repeated for the remaining 3 replacement flow paths. 

Double Cold Bag set up and loading are per the JSC Cold Stowage Procedures

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Results/More Information
Information Pending

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Related Websites

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