STaARS BioScience-1 (STaARS BioScience-1) - 09.20.17

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

ISS Science for Everyone

Science Objectives for Everyone
STaARS BioScience-1 investigates the question of why a harmful strain of bacteria appears to abandon its harmful properties when exposed to microgravity environments. The bacteria Staphylococcus aureus (S. Aureus) N315 is an antibiotic-resistant strain of bacteria, which mysteriously becomes innocuous when exposed to induced microgravity conditions on Earth. Extending this research into space, STaARS BioScience-1 uses automated equipment to grow S. Aureus N315 in protected batch cultures aboard the International Space Station and then returns the samples to Earth-based labs for detailed analysis of their biochemistry and genetic expression.
Science Results for Everyone
Information Pending

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

OpNom: STaARS BioScience-1

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

Information Pending

Space Technology and Advanced Research Systems, Inc., Houston, TX, United States

Sponsoring Space Agency
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

Sponsoring Organization
National Laboratory (NL)

Research Benefits
Earth Benefits, Space Exploration, Scientific Discovery

ISS Expedition Duration
April 2017 - February 2018

Expeditions Assigned

Previous Missions
Information Pending

^ back to top

Experiment Description

Research Overview

  • Conducting STaARS BioScience-1 on the International Space Station (ISS) supports previous terrestrial studies and provides additional understanding as to why the opportunistic skin pathogen loses both its characteristic color and pathogenicity when in microgravity.
  • Identifying the response pathway within the cell during growth in microgravity may lead to new therapeutics for the treatment and prevention of this opportunistic pathogen.
  • A new therapeutic derived from data collected during this study would directly help the nearly 30% of humans that naturally have Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) growing on their skin, and help the general population from the spread of this opportunistic pathogen.


Staphylococcus aureus was named for its golden color, as “aurum” is Latin for gold. While this eponymous feature is characteristic of virtually all S. aureus strains, the carotenoid responsible for the golden pigmentation is drastically repressed during spaceflight-analog culture. This visibly apparent alteration in pigmentation in response to culture in a spaceflight-analog environment by S. aureus serves as a highly visual and easy-to-read biological indicator of a spaceflight response. It also provides the potential to elucidate as yet unknown levels of regulation that enable adaptation to the spaceflight environment. Moreover, through the exploitation of this spaceflight-analog response, substantial insight can be gained towards the therapeutic disarming of pathogens on Earth, as pigmentation is a hallmark of and involved in the virulence of numerous pathogenic microbes, specifically methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA).
While the biochemical pathways supporting carotenoid biosynthesis are well defined, the regulatory events impacting their production remain largely uncharacterized. Additionally, a significant question still exists as to whether a microbe can regulate the biosynthesis of its pigments in favor of survival under varying environmental conditions. A knowledge gap remains regarding the underlying biochemical and molecular genetic changes responsible for alterations in pigment production. Understanding the mechanism(s) that drives these phenotypic adaptations is essential given the prominent role of pigmentation in the virulence of pigmented pathogens (including MRSA) and, conversely, for the potentially beneficial antioxidant properties of pigments in promoting human health. As the true spaceflight environment provides researchers with a unique and powerful tool to unveil previously undiscovered regulatory biological processes that naturally occur on Earth but are not always detectable using traditional laboratory approaches, the use of spaceflight as a platform for STaARS BioScience-1 holds enormous potential for novel basic research discoveries and translational potential to improve human health.

^ back to top


Space Applications
STaARS BioScience-1 studies the critical question of how the microgravity environment of space may inhibit pathogens. This research can help reduce infectious risk on future manned space missions. Discovery of disruptive mechanisms in biochemical pathways can also advance the use of space as a laboratory and potential production facility for new drugs, therapies and chemical products.

Earth Applications
STaARS Bioscience-1 advances understanding of the link between virulence and pigmentation and addresses the general question of how to reduce bacterial virulence. Understanding the role of gravity in virulence and pigmentation can contribute to better detection and treatment of bacterial infections on Earth. STaARS Bioscience-1 also contributes to fundamental understanding of microbial ecology and biochemical pathways.

^ back to top


Operational Requirements and Protocols

STaARS delivers the lyophilized cells, nutrient broth and Cryotube Kits 4-7 to the launch site 3 days prior to the scheduled launch while maintaining all samples at -20°C. Lyophilized cells and nutrient broth are loaded into the Nexus-lab. The Cryotube Kits 4, 5, 6, and 7 require no preflight prep. Under these launch conditions, the cells in both the Cryotubes and the Nexus lab are scientifically stable for 3+ weeks. Handoff of the Cryotube Kits 4, 5, 6, and 7, and the Nexus is done as late load L-24 hours to cold stowage.
The Nexus lab requires ambient temperature during assent. Cryotube Kits 4, 5, 6, and 7 require -20°C cold stow for ascent. Upon arrival to the station, Wallace Cyrotubes are moved to -20°C cold stow. The Nexus-lab is installed within the first 48 hours after hatch open. During the STaARS-1 EF platform installation/activation procedure, the crew connects the Nexus lab into the STaARS-1 EF for experiment activation. STaARS and SpacePharma operate the Nexus-lab and the microscope inside the Nexus lab via ground commanding for the remaining time on orbit. Wallace Nexus-Lab Experiment consists of 2 separate remote operations and require no crew time after Nexus lab installation. After confirmation of nominal communication and control of the Nexus-Lab, STaARS commands the start of Wallace Nexus Experiment run 1 for a 48 hour run-cycle. After confirmation of run cycle completion, STaARS commands the start of Wallace Nexus run 2 for a 48 hour run-cycle. After both runs are complete, data is transmitted to STaARS and relayed to Wallace. This concludes Wallace Nexus Lab experiments.
The cryotube experiment should begin at a minimum of hatch opening +10 days and maximum of hatch opening +20 days, dependent on the completion of the Wallace Nexus Lab Experiment. Starting 8 hours prior to crew sleep, the crew removes the Cryotube Kit 4 bag from -20°C cold stow and velcros them inside the STaARS-1 platform where the temperature is set to 37°C. Estimated thawing time is 3 hours. Just prior to crew sleep (allowing for 3 hours of thawing and 5 hours of incubation), the Cryotube Kit 4 is moved from STaARS-1 platform to cold stow at -80°C, and remain there for the remainder of the experiment. Just prior to Crew Sleep, the crew removes Cryotube Kits 5, 6 and 7 from -20°C cold stow and transfers them into the STaARS-1 platform (8 hour thaw/incubation). The Cryotube Kit 5 bag is moved to cold stow 3 hours after Crew Wake (11 hour thaw/incubation in STaARS-1); the Cryotube Kit 6 is moved to cold stow 10 hours after Crew wake (18 hour thaw/incubation); and the Cryotube Kit 7 is moved to cold stow 15 hours after Crew wake (23 hr thaw/incubation). Crew time is estimated at 1 hour total.
All payload hardware and/or samples transported to ISS are returned to the ground. The Cryotube Kits 4-7 requires cold stowage at -80°C for return and the Nexus-lab requires ambient temperature for return. The Nexus-lab is returned to SpacePharma. The PI has already received downlinked data from this, therefore no samples are returned to her out of the Nexus Lab. The Cryotube Kits are sent to Dr. Wallace frozen (-80°C) via STaARS for molecular analysis and compared to the data downlinked via the Nexus lab.

^ back to top

Decadal Survey Recommendations

Information Pending

^ back to top

Results/More Information

Information Pending

^ back to top

Related Websites

^ back to top