Bioculture System (Bioculture System Validation) - 07.31.14

Overview | Description | Applications | Operations | Results | Publications | Imagery
ISS Science for Everyone

Science Objectives for Everyone
Bioculture System 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
Information Pending

This content was provided by , and is maintained in a database by the ISS Program Science Office.

Experiment Details


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

Sponsoring Organization
Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate (HEOMD)

Research Benefits
Information Pending

ISS Expedition Duration
September 2014 - March 2015

Expeditions Assigned

Previous ISS Missions
Information Pending

^ back to top

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 flight.

The Bioculture System validation flight will validate the capability of the hardware to support on-orbit cell culture maintenance.  There are three components of the validation flight, which includes biology tests, engineering tests, and operations evaluations.  Biology will use human iCardiomyoctes (four Cassettes) and mouse MLO-Y4 osteocyte-like cells (four Cassettes) to validate hardware culture maintenance. The biology will be characterized and analyzed post-flight by examining cell morphology, protein markers, quality of the cell conditioned medium, and RNA quality and gene expression.  Engineering will have two dedicated Cassettes to conduct testing of the environmental and fluid subsystems. The Engineers will evaluate on-orbit thermal characteristics, hardware subsystems mechanical functions, and environmental and thermal automated and manual control.  Operations will evaluate Crew procedures and on-orbit timelines, data handling, and ground commanding.

^ back to top


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.

^ back to top


Operational Requirements

  • Data downlink
  • Ground Commanding
  • Power required for ascent, on-orbit, and descent
  • Cold stowage
    • On-orbit:  -80C or lower
    • Descent: -80C or lower
  • Ambient stowage of Kits
  • 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
  • Crew for manual operations for sample transfer to MELFI
    • Sample bag removal in MSG at berth+5 to 7 days and at berth+22 to 24 days
    • After the sample bags are removed for 4 of the Cassettes per session, the samples are transferred to MELFI
    • Transfer of frozen sample bags to either double cold bag for frozen return or GLACIER.  Transfer within 5 minutes of removal of sample from MELFI.
    • Gas Supply Assembly change out
  • Video/Photos of the flow path change out

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 the replacement canister assembly is slid into and connected to the Bioculture System.  The spent canister assembly is placed into ambient stow for return.
  • The Crew transfers Cassettes into the MSG per the crew procedures. A total of four Cassettes will be processed per session.  All Cassette access operations are conducted in the MSG. The cover of one Cassette is removed, flow path is accessed and then the sample-containing RNALater bag (bag will be marked for identification) will be cut out and then transferred to MELFI.  The Cassette cover is put back on to the Cassette base, and then the Cassette is returned to the Bioculture System docking station.
  • Double Cold Bag set up and loading are per the JSC Cold Stowage Procedures

^ back to top

Results/More Information
Information Pending

^ back to top

Related Websites

^ back to top