The effects of microgravity on cardiac function, structure and gene expression using the Drosophila model (Fruit Fly Lab -02 (FFL-02)) - 11.22.16

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

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Spaceflight changes the body in numerous ways, including severe effects on the heart and cardiovascular system. The effects of microgravity on cardiac function, structure and gene expression using the Drosophila model (Fruit Fly Lab-02 [FFL-02]) investigation studies Drosophila melanogaster (fruit flies), an established model for human heart health, to determine the cellular and genetic mechanisms that cause problems in the heart during spaceflight. The investigation compares flies that have hatched in space with flies grown on the ground to understand how prolonged spaceflight affects fruit fly heart function.
Science Results for Everyone
Information Pending

The following content was provided by Rolf Bodmer, Ph.D., and is maintained in a database by the ISS Program Science Office.
Experiment Details

OpNom: Fruit Fly Lab-02

Principal Investigator(s)
Rolf Bodmer, Ph.D., Sanford Burnham Medical Research Instititue, La Jolla, CA, United States

Co-Investigator(s)/Collaborator(s)
Karen Ocorr, Sanford Burnham Research Institute, La Jolla, CA, United States
Sharmila Bhattacharya, Ph.D., NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA, United States

Developer(s)
NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA, United States

Sponsoring Space Agency
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

Sponsoring Organization
NASA Research Office - Space Life and Physical Sciences (NASA Research-SLPS)

Research Benefits
Earth Benefits, Scientific Discovery, Space Exploration

ISS Expedition Duration
March 2017 - September 2017

Expeditions Assigned
51/52

Previous Missions
Fungal Pathogenesis, Tumorigenesis, and Effects of Host Immunity in Space (FIT) FIT Experiment, STS 121, 2006 Shuttle Sortie; NanoRacks-HEART FLIES SpX-3, 2015; Fruit Fly Lab-01 (FFL-01) SpX-5, 2015

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Experiment Description

Research Overview

  • Determination of the effects of microgravity on heart function. The effects of microgravity on cardiac function, structure and gene expression using the Drosophila model (Fruit Fly Lab-02) investigation seeks to quantify responses to microgravity in two wild-type strains of Drosophila, ion channel mutant lines that cause arrhythmias similar to humans, and a point mutation in muscle myosin that causes dilation. Several heart function parameters are quantified. These data should provide clues as to which aspects of heart function are affected by microgravity, whether these effects are made worse by pre-existing genetic abnormalities, and whether gender plays a role in these responses.
  • Evaluation of the effects of microgravity on heart structure in the same flies analyzed in Aim 1. Heart cells are visualized in whole amounts of exposed hearts for structural abnormalities.
  • Quantification of the effect of microgravity on cardiac gene expression changes. Twenty to 30 Drosophila hearts are pooled and subjected to standard genome-wide gene expression analysis, and comparison to an existing data base built by researchers.
  • Determination of how long the effects of microgravity persist following return to 1 g. To accomplish this, the Drosophila embryos are cultured, as well as the larva produced by flies on orbit, following their return to earth. Adult flies of fertilized eggs laid in space are assessed at one, three, and five weeks of age to determine whether there are any residual effects of microgravity on heart function, structure, and gene expression.

Description

Spaceflight has been shown to have significant effects on numerous body systems, including the cardiovascular, musculoskeletal, neuroendocrine, and immune systems. The short- and long-term effects of spaceflight on the heart and cardiovascular system have been described and may be detrimental not only to the astronauts themselves but to the very success of future long-duration space missions. In The effects of microgravity on cardiac function, structure and gene expression using the Drosophila model (Fruit Fly Lab -02 [FFL-02]) experiment, the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, is used to examine the cellular, molecular, and genetic mechanisms responsible for the adverse effects of prolonged exposure to microgravity on the heart. This experiment expands upon the results of the highly successful NanoRacks-Heart Effect Analysis Research Team conducting FLy Investigations and Experiments in Spaceflight (NanoRacks-HEART FLIES) investigation flown in 2014 on SpaceX-3.
 
The Drosophila heart, which develops and functions in a fashion remarkably similar to that of the human heart, WAS used successfully as a model to study the molecular-genetic basis of cardiac development, particularly because the underlying molecular pathways and cellular functions are fundamentally conserved even to humans. In addition, it was used to determine fundamental causes of cardiac dysfunction, such as arrhythmias and cardiomyopathies, which can lead to heart failure and death in humans.
 
The development of a microgravity heart model in the fruit fly, which is smaller, more genetically tractable, and faster aging than vertebrate models, could represent a potentially significant advancement in the study of how spaceflight affects the cardiovascular system and may facilitate the development of countermeasures to prevent the adverse effects of microgravity in astronauts.
 
The Fruit Fly Lab-02 experiment consists of six Vented Fly Boxes, each containing triplicate samples of five different fruit fly strains. During approximately one month on-orbit, the ground-born flies present at launch develop to adulthood and reproduce. Live space-born flies are then returned to Earth for analysis. The effects of prolonged spaceflight on fruit fly heart function, contractility, structure, and gene expression are assayed in space-born flies exposed to microgravity and compared to ground-born controls. Furthermore, the effects of microgravity are compared between samples composed of control fly strains and those composed of mutant flies that are genetically predisposed to two types of heart dysfunction:  arrhythmia and cardiac dilation.

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Applications

Space Applications
Compared to rodents, which scientists often use as models for human health in space experiments, fruit flies are smaller, simpler, and faster-aging, making them good study subjects on the International Space Station (ISS). Fruit flies are used in cardiac studies around the world, but have been utilized little so far in space. This investigation further establishes fruit flies as a microgravity model of the heart, enabling microgravity studies of genetics and reproduction. Results are also applicable to long-duration spaceflight because fruit flies mature and age very quickly compared to other animals.

Earth Applications
The genetic basis of fruit fly heart development is similar to that of the human heart, and the flies are used in laboratory experiments to understand cardiac problems. This investigation adds to the growing body of research on fruit flies as models for human health, and improves efforts to use fly studies to develop new therapies.

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Operations

Operational Requirements and Protocols

Late handover of live samples to Cargo Mission Contract (CMC) required (L-30 hours) due to requirement of appropriately aged samples upon launch. Four boxes destined for SABL must be installed into 18°C incubator (Bioserve) no later than L+6 days. Transfer of samples back to Dragon shall happen no earlier than two days before unberth (U-2).

Transfer four boxes from CTB to +18°C incubator (BioserveSABL) no later than L+6 days.  Transfer CTB containing two remaining boxes to ISS cabin no later than L+6 days.  Transfer four boxes from Bioserve SABL to +18°C DCB no earlier than U-2 days.  Transfer CTB containing two remaining boxes back to Dragon no earlier than U-2 days.  Transfer DCB to Dragon any time after packing.
 
 

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Decadal Survey Recommendations

CategoryReference
Animal and Human Biology AH11
Animal and Human Biology AH16
Crosscutting Issues for Humans in the Space Environment CC8
Crosscutting Issues for Humans in the Space Environment CC10

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Results/More Information

Information Pending

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Related Websites

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Imagery

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Schematic of orientation of CTB containing 6 VFBs. Launch orientation must be as shown so that top face of each VFB (side with 15 vents) is pointed at nose of Dragon during launch and landing, and maintained upright post-landing through turnover in Long Beach, to prevent semi-solid food from sloshing from its location in the bottom of each vial.

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Vented Fly Box model. 1.5U box with mesh-screened vents. Each VFB contains 15 polystyrene vials of flies with affixed cellulose acetate plugs. Top face (with 15 vents) must be pointed at nose of Dragon during launch and landing, and maintained upright post-landing through turnover in Long Beach, to prevent semi-solid food from sloshing from its location in the bottom of each vial.

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Schematic 1 of orientation of 1.0 CTB containing 6 VFBs. Launch orientation must be as shown so that top face of each VFB (side with 15 vents) is pointed at nose of Dragon during launch and landing, and maintained upright post-landing through turnover in Long Beach, to prevent semi-solid food from sloshing from its location in the bottom of each vial.

+ View Larger Image


image
Schematic 2 of orientation of 1.0 CTB containing 6 VFBs. Orientation must be as shown so that top face of each VFB (side with 15 vents) is pointed at nose of Dragon during launch and landing, and maintained upright post-landing through turnover in Long Beach, to prevent semi-solid food from sloshing from its location in the bottom of each vial.

+ View Larger Image