Genes in Space-2 (Genes in Space-2) - 03.23.17

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

ISS Science for Everyone

Science Objectives for Everyone
Spaceflight shortens telomeres, the protective caps on our chromosomes, which is associated with cardiovascular disease and cancers. Current techniques for measuring telomeres are unsuitable for use in space. Genes in Space-2 tests using the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and miniPCR system as a way to amplify deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) in space and make it possible to measure and monitor telomere changes during spaceflight. The Genes in Space competition selected this experiment on DNA amplification in microgravity from 380 proposals submitted by teachers and students in grades 7- 12 across the United States.
Science Results for Everyone
Information Pending

The following content was provided by David Scott Copeland, and is maintained in a database by the ISS Program Science Office.
Experiment Details

OpNom: Genes in Space-2

Principal Investigator(s)
David Scott Copeland, The Boeing Company, Pasadena, TX, United States

Sebastian Kraves, Ph.D., Amplyus, Cambridge, MA, United States
Ezequiel Alvarez Saavedra, Ph.D., Amplyus, Cambridge, MA, United States
Nicole Nichols, Ph.D., New England Biolabs, Ipswich, MA, United States

Boeing, Houston, TX, United States

Sponsoring Space Agency
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

Sponsoring Organization
National Laboratory Education (NLE)

Research Benefits
Earth Benefits, Scientific Discovery

ISS Expedition Duration
April 2017 - September 2017

Expeditions Assigned

Previous Missions
Information Pending

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Experiment Description

Research Overview

  • The Genes in Space-2 investigation involves the winning student proposal from the second Genes in Space Competition.
  • The first goal of Genes in Space-2 is to test the ability of two deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) polymerases to amplify highly repetitive telomeric sequences using Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR).
  • The second goal is to test the feasibility of a Loop-mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP) colorimetric assay for detection of amplification aboard the International Space Station (ISS).


During spaceflight, the combined stresses of microgravity, interrupted sleep, poor nutrition, and more changes to physiological processes result in symptoms of myocardial dysfunction, muscle atrophy, and osteopenia, among other diseases. Previous investigations have demonstrated that spaceflight can induce changes in the genome. This introduces the possibility of telomere dynamics shifting during spaceflight, leading to aberrant regulation of telomere length and symptoms of age-related diseases such as those listed above.
Telomere dynamics are most often studied as a function of telomere length. Multiple techniques are available to measure telomere length, but none are currently suitable for use on the International Space Station (ISS) due to technical requirements. Single Telomere Length Analysis (STELA) is a relatively simple procedure for measuring the lengths of telomeres within a cell population and is based on deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) amplification of telomeric repeats with the polymerase chain reaction (PCR). The goal of the Genes in Space-2 experiment is to establish whether telomeric DNA can be amplified in Space, a necessary step to developing a STELA assay that can be carried in its entirety at the ISS and beyond. Such an assay – performable on site and with the capability to eventually be developed into a diagnostic tool for deep spaceflight missions – would contribute to the discovery of how the rigors of spaceflight impact telomere dynamics and the health of our astronauts.

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Space Applications
Physiological stress can lead to changes in telomere length and may be one way the stresses of spaceflight – including poor sleep, inadequate nutrition, and cosmic radiation – affect astronaut health. The ability to measure and monitor telomere changes in space contributes to understanding how spaceflight affects telomere length and, in turn, astronaut health on future space missions. The technology may apply to a variety of other DNA testing needs and development of a diagnostic tool for deep-space missions.

Earth Applications
Genes in Space invites students and teachers in grades 7 through 12 to design DNA-related experiments to fly aboard the space station. This provides students with a direct connection to the space program and hands-on educational experiences, and promotes interest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields. Results from this investigation also direct future research into telomere dynamics during spaceflight, which furthers our understanding of fundamental connections between telomere dynamics and disease here on Earth.

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Operational Requirements and Protocols
The samples require late loading into cold stowage, and need to remain in cold stowage until ready for thawing immediately prior to operations. The samples must return to Cold Stowage after operations, and remain in Cold Stowage through return to Earth.  Samples are placed in Cold Stowage for launch. Samples are transferred into Cold Stowage assets on orbit where they remain until they are thawed immediately prior to operations. The samples are placed in the miniPCR. Following completion of the miniPCR protocol and the cooling of the hardware, the sample is removed and placed in Cold Stowage for return to Earth.

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Decadal Survey Recommendations

Information Pending

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Results/More Information

Information Pending

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Related Websites
Genes in Space Competition

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