International Space Station High Efficiency Particle Filter Analysis (ISS High Efficiency Particle Filter Analysis) - 02.25.14
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The International Space Station High Efficiency Particle Filter Analysis (ISS High Efficiency Particle Filter Analysis) studies microbes that naturally exist in our environment on Earth and that are carried in the space station’s atmosphere, and thus, may affect crew health. High-efficiency particulate air, or HEPA filters, aboard space station will be returned to Earth so microbes and particles can be extracted and studied, including DNA sequencing of microbes.
Science Results for Everyone
OpNom JCVI Research
Sponsoring Space Agency
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
National Laboratory (NL)
ISS Expedition Duration
September 2010 - September 2013
Previous ISS Missions
- Humans spend the majority of their lives in indoor environments, but little is known about the microorganisms living along with us, including in the air that we breathe. The International Space Station (ISS) is a simpler environment than the typical indoor building environment. It has no outside air entering through doors and windows, no pets, and only a few people. It is thus an ideal environment to explore the "sea of microorganisms" in which we live and breathe.
- International Space Station High Efficiency Particle Filter Analysis (ISS High Efficiency Particle Filter Analysis) identifies and understands the vast variety of microorganisms present in indoor air by extracting the deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) from the microorganisms trapped on the High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filter of the ISS.
- This is basic research to understand the microbial composition of indoor environments. Results from this simpler environment are compared to more complex building environments, such as an office building, a hospital, and a single family home.
J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI) performs analyses of microbial communities from varied environments, e.g., oceans, indoor and outdoor air. Investigations of the International Space Station (ISS) air microbes are designed to better understand an environment with fewer perturbations than those previously studied by JCVI. Additionally, environmental parameters, such as increased radiation and microgravity have yet to be investigated genomically; therefore the ISS samples provided a platform to begin to study these effects on microbial communities.
Space station is an isolated environment, lacking pets and other outside contributors. That environment makes an ideal lab to study microbial life forms that normally exist with humans and that may be amplified by their confinement with people and by the microgravity environment. This is especially important since other studies have shown that microgravity can enhance the growth and virility of pathogens.
Humans have always lived in a “sea of organisms” that can impact health when a person’s immune system is compromised by disease, allergies, or other events. Understanding their composition and extent will help in developing therapies that enhance health and home, work, and hospitals.
Analysis of the one HEPA filter obtained to date will be extremely informative. Four additional filters will be obtained, by agreement with ISS ECLS, and returned on STS-135. However, if additional filters can be returned after Shuttle retirement, further analysis will help us understand the variability and accuracy of the measurements. Placeholders for sample return are currently slated for SpaceX-3 and SpaceX-5.
All research is completed postflight.
Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) image of the ISS HEPA filter displaying collected bacterial cells and debris particles. Image courtesy of J. Craig Venter Institute.
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