In-situ Observation of Growth Mechanisms of Protein Crystals and Their Perfection Under Microgravity (Nano Step) - 03.25.15

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The In-situ Observation of Growth Mechanisms of Protein Crystals and their Perfection under Microgravity (NanoStep) investigation aims to clarify the relationship between crystal growth mechanism, surface morphology, and the perfection of crystals. Crystallization of proteins in microgravity yields crystals with better perfection than crystallization on Earth. The reason for this phenomenon has not been explained from a viewpoint of crystal growth mechanism.
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Information Pending

The following content was provided by Katsuo Tsukamoto, and is maintained in a database by the ISS Program Science Office.
Information provided courtesy of the Japan Aerospace and Exploration Agency (JAXA).
Experiment Details

OpNom: Nano Step

Principal Investigator(s)

  • Katsuo Tsukamoto, Tohoku University, Japan

  • Co-Investigator(s)/Collaborator(s)
  • Kenta Murayama, Tohoku University, Sendai, Japan
  • Etsuro Yokoyama, Gakushuin University, Tokyo, Japan
  • Hajime Sasaki, Hokkaido University, Japan
  • Masaru Tachibana, Yokohama City University, Japan
  • Tetsuo Okutsu, Gunma University, Japan
  • Kenji Izumi, Yamaguchi University, Japan
  • Yoshinao Suzuki, Tokushima University, Japan
  • Izumi Yoshizaki, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, Tsukuba, Japan

  • Developer(s)
    Information Pending

    Sponsoring Space Agency
    Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)

    Sponsoring Organization
    Information Pending

    Research Benefits
    Information Pending

    ISS Expedition Duration
    May 2012 - March 2013

    Expeditions Assigned

    Previous ISS Missions
    Information Pending

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    Experiment Description

    Research Overview

    • It has been emphasized in the literature that the protein crystal perfection increases in microgravity conditions. However, the precise mechanism responsible for such observation is yet to be understood from a fundamental point of view.
    • The objective is to study the correlation of growth mechanisms at various levels of supersaturation and defects induced during growth.
    • Lysozyme is used as a model protein and the growth of the crystal surfaces is observed using a  Michelson interferometer.

    Information Pending

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    Space Applications
    This experiment will increase the efficiency of PCG experiments in microgravity.

    Earth Applications
    The understanding of crystal growth mechanisms will increase the perfection of various crystals and benefit the people on earth.

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    Operational Requirements
    There are 3 samples with different concentrations. The experiment duration for one sample is 35 days. The crystal growth will be observed realtime by Michelson interferometry. The sample will not return.

    Operational Protocols
    Install the NanoStep Cell to SCOF, Ryutai Rack. When one sample observation is finished, then the sample will be exchanged by the crew member. 

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    Results/More Information

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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

      Yoshizaki I, Tsukamoto K, Yamazaki T, Murayama K, Oshi K, Fukuyama S, Shimaoka T, Suzuki Y, Tachibana M.  Growth rate measurements of lysozyme crystals under microgravity conditions by laser interferometry. Review of Scientific Instruments. 2013; 84(10): 103707. DOI: 10.1063/1.4826090. PMID: 24182119.

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    Related Websites

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    image NASA Image: ISS033E007364 - Close-up view of the Nano Step payload Specimen Cell prior to insertion into the SCOF (Solution Crystallization Observation Facility) in the Japanese Experiment Module (JEM).
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    image NASA Image: ISS033E007362 Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Aki Hoshide,Expedition 33 flight engineer,services the Nano Step payload in the Japanese Experiment Module (JEM).
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    image NASA Image: ISS033E007383 - Close-up view of the Nano Step payload Specimen Cell to be located in the SCOF (Solution Crystallization Observation Facility).
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