Lab-on-a-Chip Application Development-Portable Test System (LOCAD-PTS) - 07.29.14

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

Science Objectives for Everyone
Lab-on-a-Chip Application Development-Portable Test System (LOCAD-PTS) is a handheld device for rapid detection of biological and chemical substances on surfaces aboard the space station. Astronauts will swab surfaces within the cabin, mix swabbed material in liquid form to the LOCAD-PTS, and obtain results within 15 minutes on a display screen. The study's purpose is to effectively provide a rapid indication of biological cleanliness to help crew monitor microorganisms in the ISS cabin environment.

Science Results for Everyone

Arrrgh, ye scurvy astronaut, swab those decks! Researchers asked a bit more nicely, and astronauts swabbed surfaces inside the International Space Station (ISS) as part of an investigation testing a handheld device to detect biological and chemical substances. The device’s 15-minute results will enable crews to take appropriate remedial measures to contamination. The device worked, and its applications may expand from monitoring the cabin for contaminants to monitoring crew blood and saliva for medical diagnoses. This technology also has the potential to monitor the spread of Earth-derived biological material to the Moon and to search for unique life on Mars.



This content was provided by Norman R. Wainwright, Ph.D., and is maintained in a database by the ISS Program Science Office.

Experiment Details

OpNom

Principal Investigator(s)

  • Norman R. Wainwright, Ph.D., Charles River Laboratories, Charleston, SC, United States

  • Co-Investigator(s)/Collaborator(s)
  • Jake G. Maule, Ph.D., Carnegie Institution of Washington, Washington, DC, United States

  • Developer(s)
    Carnegie Institution of Washington, Washington, DC, United States

    Charles River Endosafe, Charleston, SC, United States

    Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, AL, United States

    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 2006 - October 2009

    Expeditions Assigned
    14,15,16,17,18,19/20

    Previous ISS Missions
    LOCAD-PTS operations began on ISS Expedition 14.

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    Experiment Description

    Research Overview

    • LOCAD-PTS is a handheld device for rapid detection of biological and chemical substance onboard the International Space Station (ISS).


    • LOCAD-PTS analysis is complete in 15 minutes; effectively providing an early warning system to enable the crew to take remedial measures if necessary to protect themselves on board ISS.


    • The handheld device is used with three different types of cartridges for the detection of endotoxin (a marker of gram-negative bacteria), glucan (fungi) and lipoteichoic acid (gram-positive bacteria).

    Description

    The Lab-on-a-Chip Application Development - Portable Test System (LOCAD-PTS) is a handheld device, enabling crew to perform complex laboratory tests on a thumb-sized cartridge with a press of a button. Every thumb-sized plastic cartridge has 4 channels and each channel contains a dried extract of enzymes and colorless dye. In the presence of a specific target molecule, the dried extract reacts strongly to turn the dye a yellow/green color. Therefore, the more dye, the more of that particular molecular target there is in the original sample.

    Three types of LOCAD-PTS cartridge have been used to detect three groups of microorganisms: 1. Gram-negative bacteria (with Limulus Amebocyte Lysate (LAL) cartridges to detect endotoxin); 2. Fungi (with Glucan cartridges to detect Beta-1,3-glucan); and 3. Gram-positive bacteria (with Gram+ cartridges to detect lipoteichoic acid). Each cartridge type has been tested in two phases: Phase 1 and Phase 2. Phase 1 involves extensive analysis of individual ISS surface sites with LOCAD-PTS alongside another culture-based technique called a Contact Slide (similar to a Petri dish wgere colonies are grown on gelatinous culture media). Phase 2 involves single swab tests with LOCAD-PTS at various sites throughout ISS chosen by the crew. Following completion of Phase 1 and Phase 2 for each cartridge type, there shall be a period of combined sessions (currently being performed by Expedition 18), where all three LOCAD-PTS cartridge types are used to analyze each site alongside Contact Slides.

    Tests by LOCAD-PTS will become increasingly specific with the advent of new cartridges. Current cartridges target bacteria and fungi. New cartridges, which are to be launched on subsequent flights, will target bacteria only, followed by groups of bacteria, and eventually individual species or strains that pose a specific risk to crew health. Cartridges can also be adapted to detect chemical substances of concern to crew safety on the ISS (e.g., hydrazine, ammonia, and certain acids) and proteins in urine, saliva, and blood of astronauts to provide added information for medical diagnosis.

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    Applications

    Space Applications

    This commercial, off-the-shelf technology will help assess the applicability of this technology in many areas relative to microbial detection, crew health diagnostics, and environmental monitoring. The drastic reduction in time for detection (minutes versus days) will provide a capability on ISS that does not currently exist and may help risk mitigation in the event that some type of microbial build-up is observed. Eventually, it is planned that LOCAD-PTS be used to assess water, air, and food supplies in addition to surfaces. Other cartridges are being developed to perform limited crew health diagnostics, monitor other biological molecules such as protein and peptidoglycan, and specific chemicals of potential hazard to the crew e.g. hydrazine and ammonia.

    Earth Applications

    Currently, the technology is being used to assess fluids used in pharmaceutical processing. The technology has been used to swab the Mars Exploration Rovers (MER), for planetary protection, and to assess microbial contamination in the NEEMO (NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations) project. This technology will provide quick medical diagnostics in clinical applications. It will also provide environmental testing capabilities that may serve homeland security.

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    Operations

    Operational Requirements

    The LOCAD-PTS will be located and operated in the pressurized volume on ISS. The unit will interface to an ISS laptop for power. A swabbing unit has been designed for sampling surfaces, dissolving the sample with water, and delivering precise volumes of sample to the LOCAD-PTS cartridge for analysis. Crew members will use this device to swab various surfaces on board ISS in two phases. In Phase I, the LOCAD-PTS will be used to establish operational correlation between the output from the LOCAD-PTS Reader and culture growth (as determined with agar-based media slides) for various sites in the crew environment. In Phase II of the investigation, PTS results will be compared to the data obtained from the established culture-dependent protocol used for periodic microbial monitoring on the ISS. Results from the analyses will be digitally recorded and downloaded from ISS to ground. No sample return is necessary.

    Operational Protocols

    Microorganisms at various sites on the ISS (e.g. panels and air vents) will be sampled with the swabbing unit, dissolved with water and then dispensed into the LOCAD-PTS cartridge (previously inserted into the LOCAD-PTS Reader). Once the crew has dispensed the sample into the inserted cartridge, pumps in the Reader will draw the dissolved sample into the cartridge where a reaction will take place that produces a green dye in the presence of most microorganisms. The LOCAD-PTS Reader will then measure the absorbance intensity of this green color, compare it with an in-built calibration curve and then display on the screen a quantitative value of lipopolysaccharide (LPS)/beta-1,3-glucan (collectively also known as endotoxin) ranging from 5 to 0.05 endotoxin units (EU)/ml. The sensitivity limit of 0.05 EU/ml correlates to a few bacterial cells per ml. After test completion, the cartridge is removed from the Reader and discarded. If media slides have been used during procedures (such as in Phase I), they will be incubated for 3 days and then photographed, with the images down-linked to ground.

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    Results/More Information

    LOCAD-PTS was operated for the first time on ISS during Expeditions 14 and 15. Five separate sessions were performed over six weeks, with four separate swabs taken for analysis at each site. In session 1, control test results showed that the instrument and procedures functioned nominally, with the positive control (a swab of the palm) giving a high reading (2.4 endotoxin Units (EU) per 25cm2) and the negative control (no swab) giving the lowest possible reading (less than 0.05 EU/25cm2). This session also enabled the LOCAD-PTS team to identify an improvement in the procedures (implemented during subsequent sessions) that would help remove air bubbles during the dispensing step and make it easier for the crew to dispense consistent droplet volumes. The consistent readings obtained in session 2 (and remaining sessions) indicated that this procedure change had been successful.

    Sessions 1 and 2 revealed that the smooth and flat Node 1 surfaces were relatively clean, an average of 0.1 EU/25cm2, approximately 25 times cleaner than the positive control. The fabric surface of the Temporary Sleep Station (TeSS) in the ISS analyzed in session 3 gave consistently elevated readings, but still fairly low compared with a typical office desk. The Audio Terminal Unit (ATU) and Air Supply Diffuser (ASD) - analyzed in sessions 4 and 5 respectively, gave more variable readings, correlating with the increased variability of these sites in terms of surface materials and air flow between the four swab areas.

    As the number of cartridge types on ISS increases, LOCAD-PTS is set to have an extended array of applications from monitoring the cabin environment for other biological and chemical contaminants to monitoring blood and saliva of the crew to support medical diagnostics. Looking ahead, it is hoped that this type of rapid and portable technology has the potential to be implemented on future human lunar missions to monitor the spread of Earthderived biological material on the lunar surface following landing. This will be important preparation for the human exploration of Mars, where a major scientific goal will be the search for life and differentiation of that signal from biological material brought there by the crew and their spacecraft.

    Currently, the technology is being used to assess fluids used in pharmaceutical processing. The technology has been used to swab the Mars Exploration Rovers (MER), for planetary protection, and to assess microbial contamination in the NEEMO (NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations) project. This technology will provide quick medical diagnostics in clinical applications. It will also provide environmental testing capabilities that may serve homeland security.

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    Results Publications

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    Ground Based Results Publications

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    ISS Patents

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    Related Publications

      Maule JG, Fogel M, Steele A, Wainwright NR, Pierson DL, McKay DS.  Antigen-Antibody Interactions in Altered Gravity: Implications for Immunosorbent Assay during Space Flight. Journal of Gravitational Physiology. 2004; 10(2).

       Application of Life Detection Techniques to Space Exploration. European Space Agency Life Science Symposium, Stockholm, Sweden; 2002

      Maule JG, Fogel M, Steele A.  Detection of human and bovine collagen in early holocene bone and teeth with antibody microarray. Astrobiology. 2005; 5(2): 289.

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    Related Websites
    LOCAD-PTS- Home Page
    Science@NASA: Crabs Give Blood for Space Travel
    No Foolin' -- 'Lab on a Chip' Works!
    Science@NASA - Preventing "Sick" Spaceships
    Science@NASA: Space Station Tricoder
    Science@NASA - Astronauts Swab the Deck
    NASA Article - Honey, I Shrunk the Lab!
    LOCAD-PTS Tests on Desert-RATS and Arctic Mars Svalbard Analogue Expeditions (AMASE)

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    Imagery

    image The LOCAD-PTS Reader, cartridge (below Reader) and swabbing unit (to the right). These three components are all that is required to collect a surface sample, dissolve and analyze it to obtain quantitative levels of endotoxin, glucan and lipoteichoic acid. Image courtesy of NASA, Marshall Space Flight Center.
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    image Operation of LOCAD-PTS swabbing unit during simulated surface extravehicular activity (EVA) at Meteor Crater, Arizona, as part of NASA's Desert Research and Technology Study (RATS) in September 2005. It has been proposed that future versions of the LOCAD-PTS be used outside the spacecraft during lunar expeditions in 2018 and beyond to monitor biological contamination of the surface associated with human activities. Understanding how we bio-contaminate planetary surfaces will be essential when we prepare human expeditions to search for life on Mars. Image courtesy of Jake Maule.
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    image LOCAD-PTS project scientist Dr. Jake Maule from BAE Systems (left) and principal investigator Dr. Norm Wainwright from Charles River Labs (right) test the LOCAD-PTS in zero-g during parabolic flight of NASA's DC-9 aircraft in April 2006. Every aspect of LOCAD-PTS procedures, especially the fluid handling tests, was thoroughly evaluated in a zero-g environment before flight to ISS. Image courtesy of NASA, Marshall Space Flight Center.
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    image NASA Image: ISS020E032855 - NASA astronaut Michael Barratt, Expedition 20 flight engineer, works with the Lab-on-a-Chip Application Development-Portable Test System (LOCAD-PTS) experiment in the Destiny laboratory of the International Space Station. LOCAD-PTS is a handheld device for rapid detection of biological and chemical substances onboard the space station.
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    image Dr. Andrew Steele of the Carnegie Institution of Washington and LOCAD-PTS project scientist Dr. Jake Maule analyze ice samples with LOCAD-PTS at the peak of Sverefjell volcano in Spitsbergen in the Arctic at 78°N, during the NASA-funded Arctic Mars Analog Svalbard Expedition (AMASE) in 2004. Both returned to this site in August 2006 to perform simulated Extravehicular Activity (EVA) tests alongside the Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Cliffbot robotic vehicle and scientific instruments to be included on Mars Science Laboratory (MSL), scheduled for launch in 2011. Image courtesy of Kjell Ove Storvik, AMASE.
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    image Dr. Lisa Monaco examines a microfluidic chip. This chip can be thought of as the 'next generation' of LOCAD-PTS cartridge. It is miniaturized even further to allow many more tests to be completed simultaneously. This will save crew time and allow more sophisticated types of analyses to be performed, ranging from medical tests to monitoring potentially hazardous chemicals onboard. Image courtesy of NASA, Marshall Space Flight Center.
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    image NASA Image - ISS014E18794: Expedition 14 Flight Engineer, Suni Williams, uses the swabbing unit to collect samples that will be placed into the cartridges to be analyzed by the LOCAD Reader.
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    image NASA Image - ISS014E18822: Astronaut Suni Williams, Expedition 14 flight engineer, works with the Lab-on-a-Chip Application Development-Portable Test System (LOCAD-PTS). Williams is placing the sample mixed with water from the swabbing unit into the LOCAD-PTS cartridge.
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    image NASA Image -ISS014E18811: Astronaut Suni Williams, Expedition 14 flight engineer, works with the Lab-on-a-Chip Application Development-Portable Test System (LOCAD-PTS) experiment in the Destiny laboratory of the International Space Station. LOCAD-PTS is a handheld device for rapid detection of biological and chemical substances onboard the station.
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    image NASA Image: ISS015E08353 - Lab-On-a-Chip Application Development Portable Test System (LOCAD-PTS) experiment hardware in the U.S. Laboratory/Destiny during Expedition 15.
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    image NASA Image: ISS018E018996 - View of Sandra Magnus as she works with the Lab-On-a-Chip Applications Development Portable Test System (LOCAD-PTS) hardware in the US Laboratory, Destiny.
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    image LOCAD-PTS Lead Flight Operations Engineer Dan Gunter (left) and LOCAD-PTS Project Scientist Jake Maule (right) talk to astronaut Suni Williams aboard the ISS during Expedition 14. Gunter and Maule have supported each LOCAD-PTS session on console at the Payload Operations and Integration Center (POIC) at NASA Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Image credit: NASA Marshall Space Flight Center.
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