NanoRacks-Ramon SpaceLab-01 (NanoRacks-RSL-01) - 08.02.17

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ISS Science for Everyone

Science Objectives for Everyone
NanoRacks-Ramon SpaceLab-01 (NanoRacks-RSL-01) is a compilation of five investigations aboard the International Space Station:  examining the effect of microgravity on yeast fermentation, testing whether microgravity accelerates the dissolving of medication in simulated stomach acid, testing formation of more stable emulsions of oil and water in space, measuring growth of yeast in urine as a potential source of vitamins and a mechanism of filtering urine for drinking, and observing transfer of a fluorescent plasmid during conjugation of Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria in microgravity as a step toward genetically engineering proteins.
Science Results for Everyone
Information Pending

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

OpNom:

Principal Investigator(s)
Maya Golan, M.B.A., The Ramon Foundation, Giv'atayim, Israel

Co-Investigator(s)/Collaborator(s)
Adi Kaye, The Ramon Foundation, Giv'atayim, Israel

Developer(s)
Taro Pharmaceutical Industries LTD, Israel
Weizmann Institute of Sciences, Rehovot, Israel
Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Beer Sheva, Israel
SpacePharma, Israel

Sponsoring Space Agency
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

Sponsoring Organization
National Laboratory Education (NLE)

Research Benefits
Space Exploration, Earth Benefits, Scientific Discovery

ISS Expedition Duration
April 2017 - September 2017

Expeditions Assigned
51/52

Previous Missions
Information Pending

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Experiment Description

Research Overview

  • NanoRacks-Ramon SpaceLab-01 (NanoRacks-RS-01) is a suite of five NanoRacks MixStix from The Ramon SpaceLab program, an advanced project based learning education program.
  • The first MixStix, Stability of Emulsion in Microgravity, assumes that under microgravity conditions the emulsion stabilizes and even remains stable after its return to Earth. It is presumed that microgravity influences the spatial structure of molecules.
  • The second MixStix, Reproduction of Yeast in Urine, assumes that the yeast multiplies in the urine platform. Despite microgravity, yeast can be used as an inexhaustible source of vitamins for astronauts when necessary.
  • The third MixStix, spacE.coli, assumes that under microgravity the process of conjugation of Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria is different from Earth, since bacteria are changing their conduct following the changing environment and microgravity changes the environmental condition. If the assumption is correct, protein can be produced in an artificial way, in order to help many services, for example medical service, such as reproducing insulin protein as a cure for diabetes.
  • The fourth MixStix, Space Wine, assumes that in space, due to the lack of gravity, carbon dioxide (CO2) does not float out of the solution as it does on Earth. Based on scientific review, the CO2 surrounds the yeast as bubbles and disconnect between the yeast and the solution, thus halting the process. Alternatively, due to the lack of gravity, yeast may be distributed relatively evenly in the solution. This maximizes the contact surface area of the yeast with the solution and increases efficiency of the process.
  • The fifth MixStix, Release of Medication in Space, assumes that the dissolving of medication under microgravity accelerates.

Description

The Ramon SpaceLab program, an advanced project based learning education program, has a suite of five investigations, NanoRacks-Ramon SpaceLab-01 (NanoRacks-RSL-01) each utilizing a NanoRacks MixStix.
 
Stability of Emulsion in Microgravity
The Stability of Emulsion in Microgravity experiment is trying to answer the question: What degree of stability does an emulsion have under microgravity? When oil is mixed with water, small drops of oil dissipate on the surface of the water. In order to reduce the surface tension, the drops of oil accumulate into one bubble, a small tension surface. In order to solve this situation, it is necessary to create an emulsion consisting of water, which is a known as a hydrophilic material, a material that is attracted to water, and oil, known as a hydrophobic material, a material that repels water and is attracted to oil substances. As explained, hydrophilic substances do not mix with hydrophobic substances, if they are mixed together they appear to be mixed, but separate shortly after. In order to mix the two components, it is necessary to use an emulsifier, a substance that stabilizes and combines the hydrophilic to water phase and the hydrophobic with the oil phase. The emulsion consists of precise amounts of oil and emulsifier, adding water to emulsion does not destabilize it but only make it thinner.
 
Emulsion is an important material system. Emulsions are encountered on many levels in daily life, from food products, color industry, cosmetics and of course medication. One of the main problems encountered is the separation in emulsion, an unstable system. As time passes, the oily phase separates from the water phase. This decomposition damages the effectiveness and comfort use of the emulsion in many fields: short validity of drugs, absorption of the skin of the ointments is disrupted, separation of oil from foods (which creates two layers - oil layer above and food layer from below).
 
This experiment hopes to show that it is possible to increase the stability of emulsions irreversibly. The experiment is innovative, has not yet been performed under microgravity conditions and its relevance is high, solving the problem of separation of layers will lead to great savings, since the shelf life of products will be longer. The purpose of the experiment is to show that there is a way for emulsion to remain stable and not to break down under microgravity, solving the emulsion separation problem, which extends the shelf life of emulsion-based materials, thus saving resources and money.
 
For example, Taro's flagship drug for the treatment of skin cancer is an emulsion. Over time, the emulsion disintegrates, causing the drug's effect to shorten with time, the oil part in the drug is absorbed less in the skin, causing unpleasantness and it becomes less effective. The success of this experiment may solve this separation problem and many others.
 
Reproduction of Yeast in Urine
The Reproduction of Yeast in Urine experiment seeks to answer the question: How does microgravity affect the reproduction of yeast in urine? It is assumed that the yeast multiply in the urine platform. Despite microgravity, it can be used as an inexhaustible source of vitamins for astronauts when necessary. This research can reveal more about yeast even though they are a unicellular organism similar to eukaryotic cells. If the assumption is correct, the yeast multiplies in the urine platform, and this process can help astronauts on the space station. The contribution of the experiment is that yeast and urine are two sources that never come to an end, due to the fact that the human body constantly produces urine and the yeast multiply after a few hours in urine.
 
Yeast is a healthy source of vitamins and proteins. Urine, since it is a sterile fluid, is drinkable. In this way, it is possible to develop yeast tablets for astronauts, as a source of vitamins and reduce the quantities of food sent to space. In case of a malfunction, the astronauts can combine the yeast and urine for nourishment and survival; the yeast would filter the urine, and the astronauts could eat the yeast and drink the filtered urine until food is supplied. Small amounts of yeast can provide food for a long period of time. In addition, yeast is a small component, that can help reduce shipping capacity. Yeast may also be helpful in a way to turn lavatories at the space station into biological from chemical. It seems that a biological system would be more cost-effective. The yeast will decompose the organic material in the toilets in a biological way (in eating and breathing) instead of chemical substances.
 
spacE.coli
Escherichia coli (E. coli) is the most common bacteria on the planet, with many uses in genetics and genetic engineering. Many experiments have been done on E. coli. Prokaryotic cells, are cells lacking a nucleus that have plasmid. Plasmid is a deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) fragment that once physically separated from the DNA, can replicate independently. The genes in the plasmid go through the protein production process. During the process of protein production, the genes reach the organelle in a cell called the ribosome, which is in charge of the production of proteins. In fact, the ribosome links chains of amino acids and at the end of the process it produces the protein.
 
Nature and the environment are always changing and this is the reason for evolution, the theory that explains how new species evolve by adapting them to the environment. Evolution is a process of thousands of years, but it begins like anything small. One of the processes within evolution is gene transfer. There are two main types of gene transfer: vertical gene transfer occurs when an organism receives genetic material from its ancestors, and horizontal gene transfer, a biological process in which an organism transfers genetic material to another cell that is not its offspring. In spacE.coli, the horizontal transfer between E. coli bacteria is examined. Horizontal transfer involves three modes, of which only two are conducted in this experiment. Transformation is where the cell releases genes and another cell collects them during movement within the liquid. In this way, the cells transfer genes without contact. Cognition is where two cells interact with each other and connect to each other through chemical bonds. The cell that has plasmid replicates its plasmid and transfers the replication to the second cell.
 
A fluorescent plasmid is a plasmid that has been attached to various DNA fragments. A protein tag allows the investigators to see the protein after its translation using a fluorescent microscope. Using the fluorescent microscope, the bacteria illuminates due to the light reflecting back from the plasmid.
 
In the spacE.coli experiment, a fluorescent plasmid is instilled into the E. coli group through genetic engineering. Genetic engineering has several methods, of which the "Knock-In" method of introducing new genes (plasmid) into the cell is performed for spacE.coli. In this process, the cell begins to express a gene that did not exist previously. The insertion is permanent so that the cell heritage is passed along to its descendants.
 
In order to develop a hypothesis and understand the scientific background, the investigators contacted Professor Itzik Mizrahi and his students David and Marika of Ben Gurion University, since they experiment with horizontal transfer of genes. In addition, Marika calculated the amount of oxygen and feeding needed for the bacterium. It is assumed that under microgravity the process of conjugation of E. coli bacteria is different from Earth, since bacteria are changing their conduct following the changing environment, and microgravity is a changing environmental condition. If the assumption is correct, protein will be able to be produced in an artificial way to help many services for example medical service, such as reproducing insulin protein as a cure for diabetes.
 
Space Wine
The Space Wine experiment is trying to answer the question: How does microgravity affect the rate of ethanol fermentation by yeast? During yeast fermentation, the yeast transforms the glucose in their environment into ethanol and the process of glycolysis, in which the yeast turns each glucose molecule into two molecules of pyruvate, during the enzymatic processes the pyruvate turns into ethanol molecules, while exhaling carbon dioxide.
 
Due to microgravity in space there is no estimate to direction and material tends to remain in its place. Therefore, in the NanoRacks Mixstix, carbon dioxide and alcohol do not move around (sink or float over the solution). Instead they remain in place, surrounding the yeast up until the carbon dioxide conceives a barrier surrounding the yeast and in this way, prevents contact between the yeast and solution.
 
The Space Wine experiment is important to humanity because the process of solar fermentation takes place in more places than in the human body. The process in microgravity can help to project on the study of human beings in space. The process of alcoholic fermentation is part of the glycolysis process that exists in most living organisms and biological systems in general. The alcoholic fermentation takes place in producing wine, studying the processes under microgravity conditions can shed light on producing wine in space.
 
Release of Medication in Space
The Release of Medication in Space in microgravity experiment seeks to answer the question: What effect will microgravity have on release and dissolving of medication in acid (simulating stomach acid)? Dissolving of medications in stomach acid have four stages: absorption, diffusion, dismantling and secretion. Hydrochloric acid also called muriatic acid, is an acid that is formed when hydrogen chloride gas dissolves in water. Hydrochloric acid is one of the strongest acids; when the gas is dissolved in water it is almost completely dissolved into chloride and hydrogen ion (protons).
 
Hydrochloric acid is found in the cells of most organisms. In the human body, hydrochloric acid is excreted in high concentration in the stomach, where it is used to kill bacteria and activate pepsin, an enzyme responsible for the breakdown of protein. As a result of a bacterial infection, inflammation of the stomach may cause gastric acid to damage stomach tissue, cause heartburn and, in severe cases cause Peptic Ulcer. The hydrochloric acid and food in the stomach flows into the duodenum, where it is neutralized by sodium bicarbonate (NaHCO3), which is secreted into the duodenum from the pancreas.

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Applications

Space Applications
Better understanding of fermentation in microgravity could contribute to providing astronauts with adequate energy during long-term space travel (and perhaps lead to production of wine in space). Improvements in design of medications could improve astronaut health and reduce cargo space needs. Making emulsions more stable extends the life and effectiveness of medications and food in space. Growing yeast in human urine could create a near-inexhaustible supply of vitamins in emergency situations.

Earth Applications

A better understanding of fermentation could contribute to developing treatments for diseases and metabolic disorders on Earth. Improved design of medications helps decrease cost and improve dose accuracy. More stable emulsions extend shelf life of many emulsion-based materials, saving resources and money, and improve the effectiveness of some medications. Using yeast and urine as an emergency supply of vitamins and fluids could prove useful in disaster situations on Earth. Genetic engineering of E. coli could make possible production of artificial proteins, with many potential applications on Earth, such as production of insulin protein to treat diabetes.

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Operations

Operational Requirements and Protocols
On designated days, a crew member removes the Velcro tabs to open the Module-9 lid. The crew member unclamps the fasteners on the MixStix (as directed) to mix the samples thoroughly. Repeat for all MixStix (as directed). Crew member notes the time of MixStix interaction and replaces the tubes back in Module-9. The lid is replaced and secured with Velcro tabs.

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Decadal Survey Recommendations

Information Pending

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Results/More Information

Information Pending

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Related Websites
Ramon Foundation
Israel Space Agency

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Imagery