National Laboratory Pathfinder - Vaccine - Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (NLP-Vaccine-MRSA) - 09.17.14
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National Laboratory Pathfinder - Vaccine - Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (NLP-Vaccine-MRSA) investigation uses microgravity to examine, Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, a pathogenic (disease-causing) organism resistant to most common antibiotics, to develop a potential vaccine for the prevention of infection on Earth and in microgravity.
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University of Colorado at Boulder, BioServe Space Technologies, Boulder, CO, United States
Sponsoring Space Agency
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
National Laboratory (NL)
ISS Expedition Duration
April 2008 - March 2011
Previous ISS Missions
The NLP-Vaccine series of investigations began on STS-123/1JA during ISS Expedition 16.
- Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is a type of Staphylococcus bacteria that is resistant to certain antibiotics. In the general population, most MRSA infections are skin infections. More severe or potentially life-threatening MRSA infections occur most frequently among patients in healthcare settings.
- National Laboratory Pathfinder - Vaccine - Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (NLP-Vaccine-MRSA) uses a unique and simple model of infection. The MRSA is grown in space under conditions known to effect bacterial potency, the strains which are identified as the least potent following microgravity exposure are selected as candidates for use in vaccine development on Earth.
- MRSA and Caenorhabditis elegans worms are launched separated, then serially mixed, grown and fixed in flight. Once the experiment is completed on orbit and returned to Earth, analysis of virulence is completed by the investigator.
The 2005 NASA Authorization Act designated a portion of the International Space Station (ISS) as a National Laboratory. To fulfill that mandate, NASA is providing an opportunity for non-governmental entities to conduct research and development and potentially industrial processing on board the ISS. These opportunities aboard the ISS are considered National Lab Pathfinder (NLP) missions. These NLP missions launch to the ISS on each available shuttle mission, until the shuttle is retired.
National Laboratory Pathfinder - Vaccine - Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (NLP-Vaccine-MRSA) takes advantage of knowledge gained in previous space flight studies to identify the target genes for MRSA virulence (infection potential). MRSA is a type of Staphylococcus bacteria that is resistant to certain beta-lactam antibiotics; these antibiotics include methicillin, penicillin, and amoxicillin. More severe or potentially life-threatening MRSA infections occur most frequently among patients in healthcare settings. MRSA is especially troublesome in hospitals, where patients with open wounds, invasive devices and weakened immune systems are at greater risk of infection than the general public.
Each flight opportunity of this investigation provides additional insight about the bacteria and the changes that are occurring as they grow in space. The knowledge is applied to streamline and accelerate the development of vaccines and therapeutics on Earth.
For NLP-Vaccine-MRSA, the MRSA and the Caenorhabditis elegans worms are launched separated and serially mixed, grown and fixed in flight. Once the experiment is completed on orbit and returned to Earth, analysis of virulence is completed by the investigator.
NLP-Vaccine-MRSA flies on the Space Shuttle to the ISS as NLP-Vaccine-1B, NLP-Vaccine-5, NLP-Vaccine-6, NLP-vaccine-8, NLP-Vaccine-9 and NLP-Vaccine-11.
Results from this experiment may help scientists more clearly understand measures that should be taken to reduce the risk of infection and contraction of disease while in space.
There is currently no vaccine available for the strains of organisms being examined by the NLP-Vaccine series of investigations. This research may help develop vaccines against these life threatening organisms.
This payload is conducted under ambient temperature conditions and does not require image or data download.
The research is contained in the Fluid Processing Apparatus (FPA). In order to activate the samples, the crew turns a hand crank that has been inserted onto the top of the GAP which contains the FPAs. Once the samples are activated for a predetermined length of time, the crew again turns the hand crank on top of the GAPs to terminate the experiment. The terminated samples are returned to Earth via the shuttle.
Ground Based Results Publications
Wilson JW, Ott CM, Ott CM, Honer zu Bentrup K, Ramamurthy R, Quick L, Porwollik S, Cheng P, McClelland M, Tsaprailis G, Radabaugh T, Hunt A, Fernandez D, Richter E, Shah M, Kilcoyne M, Joshi L, Nelman-Gonzalez MA, Hing SM, Parra MP, Dumars P, Norwood KL, Bober R, Devich J, Ruggles AD, Goulart C, Rupert M, Stodieck LS, Stafford P, Catella LA, Schurr MJ, Buchanan K, Morici L, McCracken J, Allen PL, Allen PL, Baker-Coleman C, Hammond TG, Hammond TG, Vogel J, Nelson R, Pierson DL, Stefanyshyn-Piper HM, Nickerson CA, Nickerson CA. Space flight alters bacterial gene expression and virulence and reveals a role for global regulator. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 2007; 104(41): 16299-16304. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0707155104. PMID: 17901201.
Sittka A, Pfeiffer V, Tedin K, Vogel J. The RNA chaperone Hfq is essential for the virulence of Salmonella typhimurium. Molecular Microbiology. 2007; 63(1): 193-217.
Tenor JL, McCormick BA, Ausubel FM, Aballay A. Caenorhabditis elegans-based screen identifies Salmonella virulence factors required for conserved host-pathogen interactions. Current Biology. 2004; 14(11): 1018-1024. DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2004.05.050. PMID: 15182677.
BioServe Space Technologies
Media Advisory - NASA Studies Microbes on Space Shuttle Flight
Payoffs from ISS Research
VA Research Project on NASA Space Shuttle
NASA Image: S126E007561 - STS-126/ULF2 Mission Specialist Shane Kimbrough works with the Group Activation Pack for a National Lab Pathfinder - Vaccine investigation on the orbiter Endeavour.
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This 2005 colorized scanning electron micrograph depicted numerous clumps of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus bacteria. Image courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Image ID - 10045.
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