Genes in Space-3 (Genes in Space-3) - 03.20.19

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

ISS Science for Everyone

Science Objectives for Everyone
Genes in Space-3 seeks to establish a robust, user-friendly deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) sample preparation process to enable biological monitoring aboard the International Space Station (ISS). The project joins two previously spaceflight tested molecular biology tools, miniPCR and the MinION, along with some additional enzymes to demonstrate DNA amplification, sample preparation for DNA sequencing, and sequencing of actual samples from the ISS. The Genes in Space-3 experiments demonstrate ways in which portable, real-time DNA sequencing can be used to assay microbial ecology, diagnose infectious diseases and monitor crew health aboard the ISS.
Science Results for Everyone
Information Pending

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

OpNom: Genes in Space-3

Principal Investigator(s)
Sarah Lynn Wallace, Ph.D., NASA Johnson Space Center, Houston, TX, United States

Aaron Steven Burton, NASA Johnson Space Center, Houston, TX, United States
Sarah Stahl, M.S., NASA Johnson Space Center, Houston, TX, United States
KRISTEN KATHLEEN JOHN, NASA Johnson Space Center, Houston, TX, United States

Boeing, Huntsville, AL, United States
NASA Johnson Space Center, Houston, TX, United States

Sponsoring Space Agency
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

Sponsoring Organization
National Laboratory (NL)

Research Benefits
Earth Benefits, Scientific Discovery, Space Exploration

ISS Expedition Duration
September 2016 - February 2018; October 2018 - October 2019

Expeditions Assigned

Previous Missions
SpX-8 Genes in Space-1, OA-7 Genes in Space-2

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Experiment Description

Research Overview

  • Genes in Space-3 provides the capacity to perform all steps needed for DNA sequencing, a complex molecular biology technique, entirely in space.
  • The identification of microbes found through operational monitoring of the ISS environment is currently not possible, but is essential for travel beyond low-Earth orbit. Microbial identifications are determined through the Genes in Space-3 investigation and this insight can be used to inform real-time decisions and remediation strategies.
  • DNA from any organism can be sequenced to assist any scientific investigation or crew health assessment on the ISS. Additionally, ribonucleic acid (RNA) from any organism can be converted to DNA and sequenced, enabling gene expression studies to understand how living things are responding to life in the spaceflight environment.
  • Real-time analysis from DNA sequencing can impact medical intervention and define countermeasure efficacy.
  • This ISS demonstration serves as functional testing for possible integration into robotics for Mars exploration missions and this technology is well-suited for detection of life based on DNA and DNA-like molecules.

The objective of Genes in Space-3 is to demonstrate that DNA amplification and sample preparation for sequencing can be performed in the microgravity environment of the ISS using conventional terrestrial methods modified only where necessary for space flight considerations. To accomplish this, joint operations of the previously validated spaceflight hardware, miniPCR (Genes in Space) and the MinION (Biomolecule Sequencer), establish a sample-to-sequencer process. The immediate capabilities from the joint operations are, but are not limited to, in-flight microbial identification for crew and vehicle health assessments; monitoring changes at the DNA level in crew members and microbes; and analyzing DNA-based life on other worlds if present.

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Space Applications
Testing the developed DNA amplification, sequencing preparation, and sequencing process aboard the ISS provides information toward the reliability and functionality of these complex techniques in the low resource, low gravity environment of space. The identification of potential flaws or technical issues in an extreme setting like space can make the technology more robust for Earth applications. Genes in Space-3 sample-to-sequencer process holds the potential to enable the collection of critical genomic and gene expression data from environments not previously accessible to real-time sequencing technology. The insight from Genes in Space-3 can be applied to new environments (e.g., the ISS cabin, the surface of Mars) to contribute valuable information toward microbial ecology and infectious disease, how living things are adjusting to these new conditions, and overall health.

Earth Applications
Genes in Space-3 readies gene sequencing tools for long term space travel. Gene sequencing is an important capability in biological monitoring of crew, space vehicles and exploration targets. Surfaces of other planets, for example, may host organisms or genetic material in quantities so small that they can only be detected by highly sensitive and versatile tools like the Genes in Space-3 sequencer.

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Operational Requirements and Protocols
Crew member retrieves a sample preparation kit, flow cell and genomic DNA or cell samples from cold stowage or Environmental Health Systems hardware. miniPCR and Surface Pro3 tablet are retrieved from stowage and setup. The crew member first micropipettes DNA or cells into miniPCR sample tubes containing the enzymes necessary to perform DNA amplification using miniPCR. The crew member then places the tubes within miniPCR and initiates the amplification procedure. Once amplification is complete and upon retrieving the samples from miniPCR, the crew member uses a traditional micropipette to add enzymes to the miniPCR sample tubes to clean-up the amplified product. After a short incubation at ambient ISS temperature the amplified DNA is prepared for sequencing. To put the DNA into a sequence-ready format, the crew member once again pipettes enzymes into the reaction tubes. Following a short incubation at ambient ISS temperature, the DNA is ready to be sequenced. The crew member loads the prepared sample in a flow cell after inserting the flow cell into the MinION sequencer. The sequencer runs for either 6 or 48 hours unattended and shuts itself down. When the run is finished, data transfer from the Surface Pro3 to Earth is initiated from the ground. The crew member then removes the flow cell from the sequencer and discards it.

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Decadal Survey Recommendations

Information Pending

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Results/More Information

Information Pending

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Related Websites

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