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Investigation of host-pathogen interactions, conserved cellular responses, and countermeasure efficacy during spaceflight using the human surrogate model Caenorhabditis elegans (Micro-5)
12.05.12

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Overview | Description | Applications | Operations | Results | Publications | Imagery

Experiment Overview

This content was provided by

Cheryl

A

Nickerson

, Ph.D., and is maintained in a database by the ISS Program Science Office.

Brief Summary

The Investigation of host-pathogen interactions, conserved cellular responses, and countermeasure efficacy during spaceflight using the human surrogate model Caenorhabditis elegans (Micro-5) investigation aims to better understand the risks of in flight infections in space explorers during long-term space flight using the model organism Caenorhabditis elegans (roundworm) with the microbe Salmonella typhimurium (causes food poisoning in humans).

Principal Investigator(s)

  • Cheryl

    A

    Nickerson

    , Ph.D., Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ, United States
  • Co-Investigator(s)/Collaborator(s)

  • C. Mark Ott, Ph.D., Johnson Space Center, Houston, TX, United States
  • Catharine A. Conley, Ph.D., Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA, United States
  • John Alverdy, M.D., University of Chicago, Chicago, IL, United States
  • Developer(s)

    University of Colorado at Boulder, BioServe Space Technologies, Boulder, CO, United States

    Sponsoring Space Agency

    National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

    Sponsoring Organization

    Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate (HEOMD)

    ISS Expedition Duration

    March 2013 - October 2013



    Expeditions Assigned

    35/36

    Previous ISS Missions

    Increment 33/34 is the first planned mission for the Micro-5 investigation.

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    Experiment Description

    Research Overview

    • An improved understanding of the risk due to infectious disease becomes critical to ensure crew health, safety and performance during long duration missions. Changes that occur to both the human immune system and the pathogens could represent a major challenge to the successful transition from short- to long-duration space flight.


    • The Micro-5 experiment will infect the human surrogate model Caenorhabditis elegans with S. typhimurium during space flight and follow the survival of the C. elegans on orbit compared to controls on Earth.


    • Micro-5 will study the role of the intestine during infections in real-time, define virulence mechanisms, identify evolutionarily conserved responses, and test novel therapeutic strategies to prevent infectious disease.

    Description

    Changes that occur to both the host immune system and pathogenesis of microbes during space flight represent a difficult challenge to the successful transition from short to long-duration space flight. This is a critical concern since; a) the immune system of the crew is dysfunctional during spaceflight, b) spaceflight uniquely increases the virulence and globally alters gene expression of the human pathogen Salmonella typhimurium when the bacteria are recovered post-flight and subsequently used to infect ground-based animal models, c) spaceflight-induced increases in S. typhimurium virulence are regulated by media ion composition, d) phosphate ion is sufficient to alter related pathogenesis responses in a ground-based space flight analogue model, and e) the evolutionarily conserved bacterial RNA chaperone protein, Hfq, serves as a master molecular regulator of many of these responses.

    While space flight has been shown to induce changes that can independently affect the host or the pathogen in a manner that is directly relevant to the development of infectious disease during space flight, none of these studies have been done when both the host and pathogen are simultaneously exposed to the space flight environment. To address this, the Micro-5 experiment will study in-flight infections of Caenorhabditis elegans with S. typhimurium to observe the role of the intestine in host-pathogen interactions in real-time, define virulence mechanisms, identify evolutionarily conserved responses, and test novel therapeutic strategies to prevent infectious disease.

    The Micro-5 investigators hypothesize that the combination of a space flight induced increase in virulence of the pathogen coupled with a blunted immune response of the host will result in a synergistic effect on the host-pathogen interaction such that the risk of infectious disease during space flight is worsened. Investigators further propose that these responses represent evolutionarily conserved mechanisms at the level of both host and pathogen that are dependent on media ion composition, specifically the local concentration of phosphate.

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    Applications

    Space Applications

    An improved understanding of the risk due to infectious disease becomes critical to ensure crew health, safety and performance during long duration missions. Changes that occur to both the host immune system and pathogenesis of microbes during space flight could represent a formidable challenge to the successful transition from short to long-duration space flight. This is a critical issue to address since the crew’s immune system is dysfunctional during flight, and space flight uniquely increases the virulence and globally alters gene expression of pathogens such as Salmonella typhimurium. However, none of these studies have been done when both the host and pathogen are simultaneously exposed to the space flight environment. To address this, the Micro-5 experiment will study the infection of Caenorhabditis elegans with S. typhimurium during space flight and observe the effects in real-time. This experiment will also test novel therapeutic strategies to prevent infectious diseases during future space flight missions.

    Earth Applications

    The Micro-5 study is the first of its kind to profile the host-pathogen interaction in real time during space flight. This study provides a solid foundation for the development of vaccines and other novel countermeasures, for the treatment and prevention of infectious diseases both to the crew and the general public on Earth. Most importantly, the knowledge gained from this experiment will broaden investigator’s knowledge of microorganisms and mammalian cells for both space flight and Earth-based applications.

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    Operations

    Operational Requirements

    Late Load L- 28 hrs, Early Recovery R+ 6 hours.

    Operational Protocols

    This experiment is still in the Phase A, experiment definition phase, therefore the operational protocols for this experiment have not been finalized.

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    Results/More Information

    Information Pending

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    Related Websites
  • Science Daily - Out of This World: New Study Investigates Infection of Human Cells in Space
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    Imagery

    image Microscopic view of Salmonella typhimurium bacteria.
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    image Microscopic view of the roundworm C. elegans
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    Information provided by the investigation team to the ISS Program Scientist's Office.
    If updates are needed to the summary please contact JSC-ISS-Program-Science-Group. For other general questions regarding space station research and technology, please feel free to call our help line at 281-244-6187 or e-mail at JSC-ISS-Payloads-Helpline.